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RUSTIC CHIVALRY (Cavalleria Rusticana) 101 

LA LUPA 117 











Giovanni Verga was born at Catania, in 
Sicily, in 1840. His youth was spent in 
Florence and Milan. He afterwards lived 
in Catania* again, where he had an opportu- 
nity of studying those types of the Sicilian 
peasantry which he introduces so effectively, 
and with such dramatic suggestion, into many 
of his stories and sketches. After experienc- 
ing grievous family losses he returned to 
Milan, where he now resides. 

In " EAmante di Gramigna " Verga gives, 
in the form of a letter to his friend, the novel- 
ist, S. Farina, a sort of brief exposition of his 
literary Creed. Much of the drama is left 
to the imagination of the reader, who sees 
through the lines the action hinted at in a 
word or a phrase. Thus, in the story just 
mentioned, no definite time-limit is assigned. 
Months elapse, but only a passing expression 


gives the due to it. It is amazing how defi- 
nite is the idea left in the mind. It gives all 
the vividness of reality. 

" Cavalleria Rusticana," or " Rustic Chiv- 
alry" has been known all over the world by 
its operatic setting by Mascagni. " La Lupa," 
which is scarcely less strong and vital, has 
been chosen by another Italian composer, 
Puccini, as the subject for a two-act opera. 
These two, as well as " Eamante di Gra- 
migna" and" Jeli il Pastor e," illustrate the 
deeper passions of the Sicilian peasantry. 
Verges sardonic humor is shown in " GK 
Orfani." How the sordid poverty of the peo- 
ple stands out in the comparison between the 
sorrow over the dying ass, and the utterly 
materialistic grief at the loss of the pains- 
taking second wife ! 

" La Storia del? Asino di San Giuseppe.," 
well illustrates the average treatment of the 
long-suffering, long-eared mules and asses 
which make so picturesque a part of the scen- 
ery of Italian and Spanish countries. It is a 
document for the Society for the Prevention of 


Cruelty to Animals, and well deserves to be 
circulated together with "Black Beauty" 
What pathos in the sudden transfer of the 
poor little beast from comparative comfort, at 
least from the " do Ice far niente " of its foal- 
hood, to the grim realities of life, and its 
steady and fatal decline through all the gamut 
of wretchedness and degradation, to die at 
last under the weight of its burdens ! And 
what side glances on the condition of those un- 
fortunate Sicilians who live in what ought to 
be the very garden and Paradise of the world, 
and yet are so oppressed by unregulated 
Nature and too well regulated taxes ! 

It is no land of the imagination into which 
we are brought by Verga ; there is no fasci- 
nating glamour of the virtuous triumphing 
after many vicissitudes, and seeing at last the 
wicked adequately punished. Here it is grim 
reality. The poor and weak go relentlessly to 
the wall ; innocence and humble ignorance are 
crushed by experienced vice, the butterfly is 
singed by the flame ; there is little joy, little 
peace. The fleckless sky shines down bril- 


liantly on wreck of home and fortune ; the 
son must go to the army, and the daughter to 
her shame ; the father's gray hairs must be 
crowned with dishonor, and despair must 
abide in the mother's breast. But yet the 
stories are not wholly pessimistic, nor do they 
give an utterly hopeless idea of the Sicilian 
peasant. He shows his capabilities; the 
woman her fiery zeal and faithfulness, even 
when on the wrong track. You see that edu- 
cation and a little real sympathy might make 
a great people out of Verges " Turiddus " 
and "Alfios." There are dozens of others of 
Verga's short sketches which would repay 
translation, but the little collection of Sicilian 
pictures here presented is marked by quite 
wonderful variety and contrast. They well 
illustrate the author's genius at its best. 


" Hedgecote," Glen Road, 
Jamaica Plain, June 19, 1895. 


Some of the Italian titles applied to the 
characters in these stories are retained. They 
are untranslatable ; to omit them takes away 
from the Sicilian flavor, which is their great 
charm. Thus the words compare (con and 
padre'] and comare (con and madre}, literally 
godfather and godmother, are used in almost 
the same way as " uncle " and " aunt " in our 
country districts, only they are applied to 
young as well as old ; gna is a contraction for 
signora, corresponding somewhat to our mis 1 
for " Mrs." Babbo is like our " dad " or " dad- 
die." Massaro is a farmer ; compagni d^armi 
are district policemen, not quite the same as 
gens d^armes ; Bersegliere is the member of a 
special division of the Italian army. 




DEAR Farina, this is not a story, but 
the outline of a story. 
It will at least have the merit of being 
short, and of having fact for its foundation ; 
it is a human document, as the phrase goes 
nowadays: interesting perhaps for you 
and for all those who study the mighty 
book of the heart. I will tell it just as I 
found it among the country paths, and in 
almost the same simple and picturesque 
words that characterize the tales of the 
people ; and really you will prefer to find 
yourself facing the bare and unadulterated 


fact rather than being obliged to read be- 
tween the lines of the book through the 
author's spectacles. 

The simple truth of human life will 
always make us thoughtful; will always 
have the effectiveness of reality, of gen- 
uine tears, of the fevers and sensations 
that have inflicted the flesh. The mysteri- 
ous processes whereby conflicting passions 
mingle, develop and mature, will long 
constitute the chief fascination in the 
study of that psychological phenomenon 
called the plot of a story, and which 
modern analysis tries to follow with scien- 
tific care, through the hidden paths of 
oftentimes apparently contradictory com- 

Of the one that I am going to tell you 
to-day I shall only narrate the starting 
point and the ending, and that will suffice 
for you, as, perchance, some day it will 
suffice for all. 

We replace the artistic method to which 
we owe so many glorious masterpieces by 


a different method, more painstaking and 
more recondite; we willingly sacrifice the 
effect of the catastrophe, of the psycholog- 
ical result as it was seen through an 
almost divine intuition by the great artists 
of the past, and employ instead a logical 
development, inexorably necessary, less 
unexpected, less dramatic, but not less 
fatalistic ; we are more modest, if not more 
humble; but the conquests that we make 
with our psychological verities will not be 
any less useful to the art of the future. 
Supposing such perfection in the study of 
the passions should be ever attained that 
it would be useless to go further in the 
study of the interior man, will the science 
of the human heart, the fruit of the new 
art, so far and so universally develop all 
the resources of the imagination that in the 
future the only romances written will be 
" Various Facts ? " 

I have a firm belief that the triumph of 
the Novel, the completest and most human 
of all the works of art, will increase until 


the affinity and cohesion of all its parts 
will be so perfect, that the process of its 
creation will remain a mystery like the 
development of human passions; I have 
a firm belief that the harmony of its forms 
will be so absolute, the sincerity of its 
reality so evident, its method and justifica- 
tion so deeply rooted, that the artist's hand 
will remain absolutely invisible. 

Then the romance will seem to portray 
a real event, and the work of art will ap- 
parently have come about by itself, spon- 
taneously springing into being and matur- 
ing like a natural fact, without any point 
of contact with its author. It will not have 
preserved in its living form any stamp of 
the mind in which it originated, any shade 
of the eye that beheld it, any trace of the 
lips that murmured the first words thereof 
as the creative fiat ; it will exist by its own 
reason, by the mere fact that it is as it 
should be and must be, palpitating with 
life and as immutable as a statue of 
bronze, the author of which has had the 


divine courage of eclipsing himself and 
disappearing in his immortal work. 

A few years ago, down by the Simeto, 
they were giving chase to a brigand, a 
certain Gramigna,* if I am not mistaken, a 
name as cursed as the weed that bears it. 
The man had left behind him, from one 
end of the province to the other, the terror 
of his evil reputation. Carabineers, com- 
pagni d'armi, and cavalry-men had been 
on his track for two months, without ever 
succeeding in putting their claws on him ; 
he was alone, but was equal to ten, and the 
evil plant threatened to take firm root. 

Moreover the harvest-time was approach- 
ing, the crops already covered the fields, 
the ears bent over and were calling to the 
reapers, who indeed had their reaping- 
hooks in their hands, and yet not a single 
proprietor dared show his nose over the 
hedge of his estate, for fear of meeting 
Gramigna, who might be stretched out 

*Gramigna means dog's-tail-grass. 


among the furrows with his carbine be- 
tween his legs, ready to blow off the head 
of the first person who should venture to 
meddle with his affairs. 

Thus the complaints were general. 
Then the prefect summoned all those 
gentlemen of the district carabineers 
and companies of armed men and told 
them two words of the kind that makes 
men prick up their ears. The next day 
an earthquake in every nook and corner : 
patrols, squadrons, scouts for every 
ditch and behind every wall ; they hunted 
him by day, by night, on foot, on horse- 
back, by telegraph, as if he had been a 
wild beast ! Gramigna eluded them every 
time, and replied with shots if they came 
too close on his track. 

In the fields, in the villages, among the 
factories, under the signs of country tav- 
erns, wherever people met, Gramigna was 
the only topic of conversation, that wild 
chase, that desperate flight. The cara- 
bineers' horses returned dead-tired; the 


soldiers threw themselves down in utter 
weariness on the ground when they got 
back to the stables; the patrols slept 
wherever chance offered; Gramigna alone 
was never tired, never slept, kept always 
on the wing, climbed down precipices, 
slipped through the harvest-fields, crept 
on all fours among the prickly pear- 
trees,* made his way out of danger like 
a wolf by means of the hidden channels 
of the torrents. 

The chief argument of every discourse 
at the cross roads, before the village en- 
trances, was the devouring thirst from 
which the fugitive must suffer in the 
immense, barren plain, under the June 
sun. The lazy loungers opened wide their 

Peppa, one of the prettiest girls of 
Licodia, was expecting at that time soon 
to marry compare Finu, called " Candela 
di sego" (the tallow-candle), who had 
landed property and a bay mule, and was 

* Fichidindia, also called Indian figs. 


a tall young man, handsome as the sun, 
who carried the standard of Santa Mar- 
gherita without bending his back, as 
though he were a pillar. 

Peppa's mother shed tears of delight 
over the good fortune that had befallen 
her daughter, and spent her time in look- 
ing over and over the bride's effects in the 
trunk, all white linen and of the nicest 
quality, like a queen's, and earrings that 
would hang down to the shoulders and 
gold rings for all the ten ringers of both 
hands; more money than Santa Margher- 
ita could have ever had and so they 
were to have been married on Santa 
Margherita's day, which would fall in June, 
after the hay had been harvested. 

"Candela di Sego," on his way back 
from the field, used every evening to 
leave his mule at Peppa's front door and 
go in to tell how the crops promised to 
be a veritable enchantment, unless Gra- 
migna set them on fire, and the lattice over 
against the bed would not be large enough 


to hold all the grain, and that it seemed to 
him a thousand years off before he should 
carry home his bride on the crupper of his 
bay mule. 

But Peppa one fine day said to him, 

" Let your mule have a rest, for I do not 
wish to get married." 

The poor " Candela di Sego " was dumb- 
founded, and the old mother began to 
tear her hair when she heard that her 
daughter had refused the best match in 
the village. 

" I am in love with Gramigna," said the 
girl, " and he is the only one whom I will 

"Ah!" screamed the mamma, and she 
stormed through the house, with her gray 
hair streaming so that she looked like a 
witch " Ah ! that demon has been here 
to bewitch my daughter ! " 

"No," replied Peppa, with her eyes 
flashing like a sword "no, he has not 
been here." 

" Where did you ever see him ? " 


"I never saw him. I have only heard 
him spoken of. But I feel something 
here, that burns me." 

The report spread through the region, 
though they tried to keep it a secret. 
The women and girls who had envied 
Peppa the prosperous farming, the bay 
mule and the handsome youth who could 
bear the standard of Santa Margherita 
without bending his back, went around 
telling all sorts of unkind stories: how 
Gramigna had been to visit her one night 
in the kitchen, and how he had been seen 
hiding under the bed. The poor mother 
burnt a lamp for the souls in purgatory 
and even the curato went to Peppa's house 
to touch her heart with his stole, so as to 
drive out that devil of a Gramigna, who 
had got possession of it. 

But she persisted in her statement that 
she did not know the fellow by sight; 
but that she had seen him one night in a 
dream, and the following morning she had 
got up with her lips dry as if shs had 


herself suffered from all the thirst which 
they reported him to be enduring. 

Then the old woman shut her up in the 
house, so that she might not hear another 
word about Gramigna, and she stopped up 
all the cracks of the door with images of 
the saints. 

Peppa heard all that was said in the 
street behind the sacred images, and she 
turned red and white, as if the devil had 
kindled all his fires in her face. 

Finally she heard it said that Gramigna 
had been located among the prickly pear- 
trees of Palagonia. 

" They have been firing for two hours," 
they said. " He has killed one carabineer 
and wounded more than three compagni 
tf.armi. But they sent back such a hail- 
storm of shots that he must have been hit ; 
there was a pool of blood where he had 

Then Peppa made the sign of the cross 
before the old mother's pillow, and made 
her e~cape out of the window. 


Gramigna was in the prickly pear-trees of 
Palagonia, and they were not able to find him 
in that stronghold of rabbits. He was rag- 
ged and covered with blood, pale after two 
days of fasting, burning with fever, and he 
had his carbine levelled. When he saw her 
coming, resolute, among the prickly pear 
bushes, in the dim light of the gloaming, he 
hesitated a moment whether to shoot or 
not : 

" What do you want ? " he demanded. 
" What are you coming here for ? " 

" I am coming to stay with you," said 
she, looking straight at him. " Are you 
Gramigna ? " 

" Yes, I am Gramigna. If you expect to 
get those twenty oncie* of reward, you are 
mightily mistaken." 

" No, I have come to stay with you," 
she replied. 

" Go away ! " said he. " You can't stay 
with me, and I don't want anyone with me. 
If you are after money, I tell you you have 

* An onza is $2.55. 


made a mistake. I haven't any, mind 
you ! For two days I have n't had even a 
morsel of bread." 

" I can't go back home now," said she ; 
" the place is all full of soldiers." 

" Go away ! What is that to me ? Each 
for himself." 

As she was turning away like a kicked 
dog, Gramigna called to her : 

" Say, go and get me a jug of water, 
down yonder in the brook. If you want 
to stay with me, you must risk your skin." 

Peppa went without saying a word, and 
when Gramigna heard the gunshots he 
began to laugh immoderately, and said to 
himself : " That was meant for me ! " 

But when he saw her coming back a few 
minutes later with the jug in her hand, 
pale and bleeding, he said, before he 
sprang forward to snatch the jug from 
her, and then when he had drunk till it 
seemed as if he had no more breath : 

" You escaped, did you ? How did you 


"The soldiers were on the other side, 
and there was a thick bush on this." 

" But they put a bullet through your 
skin. There 's blood on your dress." 


" Where were you hit ? " 

" In the shoulder." 

" That 's nothing. You can walk." 

So he allowed her to stay with him. 
She followed him, all in rags, shoeless, 
suffering from the fever caused by the 
wound, and yet she went foraging to 
procure for him a jug of water or a piece 
of bread, and if she came back with empty 
hands, escaping through the gunshots, her 
lover, devoured by hunger and thirst, 
would beat her. At last one night when 
the moon was shining in the prickly pears, 
Gramigna said to her, 

" They are on us." 

And he obliged her to stand with her 
back to the rock far in the crevice ; then 
he fled in another direction. Among the 
bushes were heard the frequent reports of 


the musketry, and the shadows were cut 
here and there by quick bright flashes. 
Suddenly Peppa heard the sound of steps 
near her and saw Gramigna coming back, 
dragging along a broken leg. He leaned 
against the prickly pear bushes to reload 
his carbine : 

" It 's all over," he said to her. " Now 
they '11 take me." 

And what froze the blood in her veins 
more than anything else was the light that 
shone in his eyes, as if he were a madman. 

Then when he fell on the dry branches 
like a log of wood, the soldiers were on 
him in an instant. 

The following day they dragged him 
through the village street on a cart, all in 
rags and covered with blood. The people 
who had crowded in to look at him began 
to laugh when they saw how small he was, 
how pale and ugly like a punchinello. 
And it was for him that Peppa had de- 
serted compare Finu, the "Candela cli 


The poor " Candela di Sego " went and 
hid from sight, as if it behoved him to be 
ashamed, and Peppa was led off, hand- 
cuffed by soldiers, as if she also were a 
thief, she who had as much gold as 
Santa Margherita ! Her poor mother was 
obliged to sell all the white linen stored in 
her trunk, and the gold earrings and the 
rings for the ten fingers, so as to pay the 
lawyers who defended her daughter and 
bring the girl home again, poor, ill, in 
shame, ugly as Gramigna, and with Gra- 
migna's child in her arms. 

But when at the end of the trial her 
daughter was restored to her, the poor old 
soul recited an " Ave Maria " in the bare 
and already dark jail among the soldiers 
of the guard; it seemed to her that they 
had given her back a treasure when she 
had nothing else in the world, and she 
wept like a fountain at this consolation. 

Peppa on the other hand seemed to 
have no tears to shed any more, and said 
nothing, and disappeared from sight ; yet 


the two women went out every day to get 
their living by their own hands. People 
declared that Peppa had taken up "the 
trade " in the woods, and went on robbing 
expeditions at night. The truth of the 
matter was that she hid herself in the 
kitchen like a wild beast in its lair, and it 
was only when her old mother was dead of 
her privations, and the house had to be 
sold, that she left it. 

"See here!" said " Candela di Sego," 
who was as much in love with her as ever, 
" I could smash your head with two stones 
for the evil you have brought on yourself 
and others." 

" It 's true," replied Peppa, " I know it. 
It was God's will." 

After her house and those few wretched 
pieces of furniture that were left to her 
were sold, she went away from the town 
by night, just as she had done before, 
without turning round to look at the roof 
under which she had slept so long, and 
she went to do God's will in the city, with 


her baby boy, near the prison in which 
Gramigna was incarcerated. She could 
see nothing else besides the black grated 
windows along the mighty silent facade, 
and the sentinels drove her away if she 
stopped to look where he might be. At 
last she was told that he had not been 
there for some time, that he had been 
taken away to the other side of the sea, 
manacled, and with a basket fastened over 
his shoulder. 

She said nothing. She did not go 
away ; for she knew not where to go, and 
she had nothing more to expect. She 
made a shift to live, doing chores for the 
soldiers, for the prisoners, as if she herself 
made a part of that black and silent build- 
ing; and she felt for the carabineers who 
had taken Gramigna in the thicket of 
prickly pears, and who had broken his 
leg with their shots, a sort of respectful 
tenderness, as it were a brute admiration 
of force. 

On holidays, when she saw them with 


their plumes and their glittering epaulettes, 
stiff and erect in their gala uniforms, she 
devoured them with her eyes, and she was 
always at the barracks cleaning the big 
rooms and polishing the boots, so that they 
called her " The Carabineers' dish-cloth/' 

Only when she saw them load their guns 
at nightfall and march out, two and two, 
with their trousers turned up, revolver in 
belt, and when they mounted horse under 
the light that made the muskets flash, and 
heard the clattering of the horses' feet 
dying away in the darkness and the jing- 
ling of sabres, she always grew pale, and 
while she was closing the door of the 
stable she shivered ; and when her young- 
ster played with the other urchins on the 
glacis before the prison, running among 
the legs of the soldiers, and the urchins 
called him " Gramigna's son, Gramigna's 
son," she flew into a rage and chased them 
away with stones. 





JELI, who had charge of the horses, was 
thirteen when he first became ac- 
quainted with the young gentleman, Don 
Alfonso. But he was so small that he did 
not come up to the belly of the old mare 
Bianca, who carried the big bell for the 
drove. Wherever his animals wandered 
for their pasturage, here and there, on the 
mountains and down in the plain, he was 
always to be found erect and motionless on 
some eminence or squatting on some big 

His friend, Don Alfonso, while he was 
at his country seat, went to find him all 
the days that God sent to Tebidi, and 
shared with him his piece of chocolate 
and shepherd's barley-bread and the fruit 
stolen in the neighborhood. 

At first Jeli called the young nobleman 


eccelknza your excellence as is the cus- 
tom in Sicily, but after they had had one 
good quarrel their friendship was estab- 
lished on a solid basis. Jeli taught his 
friend how to climb up to the magpies' 
nests on the tip-top of the walnut-trees, 
higher than the campanile of Licodia, to 
knock down a sparrow on the wing with a 
stone, and to mount with one spring on the 
bare backs of his half-wild animals, seizing 
by the mane the first that came within 
reach, without being frightened by the 
wrathful whinny ings and the desperate 
leaps of the untrained colts. 

Ah ! the delightful gallops across the 
mown fields with their hair flying in the 
wind ; the lovely April days when the wind 
billowed the green grass and the horses 
neighed in the pastures; the glorious 
summer noons when the whitening fields 
lay silent under the cloudy sky, and the 
crickets crackled among the clods as 
though the stubble were on fire; the 
bright wintry sky seen through the naked 


branches of the almond trees shivering 
under the north wind, and the narrow 
path sounding frozen under the horses' 
hoofs, and the larks singing on high in 
the warmth, in the azure; the delicious 
summer afternoons that passed slowly, 
slowly, like the clouds; the sweet odor of 
the hay in which they plunged their el- 
bows, and the melancholy humming of the 
evening insects, and those two notes of 
Jeli's zufolo or whistle, always the same 
iuh iuh ! making one think of distant 
things, of the feast of Saint John, of 
Christmas eve, of the dawn of the scam- 
pagnata* of all those great events of the 
past which seemed sad, so distant were 
they, and made you look up with mois- 
tened eyes as if all the stars that were 
kindling in heaven poured showers into 
your heart and made it overflow ! 

Jeli, himself, did not suffer from any 
such melancholy ; he squatted on the side 
of the hill with puffed-out cheeks, quite 

* Pic-nic day. 


intent on sounding his iuh ! iuh ! iuh ! 
Then he would bring together his drove 
by dint of shouts and stones, and drive 
them into the stable beyond the " poggio 
alia Croce." * 

Out of breath he would mount the hill- 
side beyond the valley, and sometimes 
shout to his friend Alfonso, 

" Call the dog ! ohe ! Call the dog ! " 
or " Fling a good-sized stone at the bay 
who's got the better of me and is slowly 
wandering away, dallying among the 
bushes of the valley," or "To-morrow 
bring me a big needle one of gna Lia's." 

He could do all sorts of things with the 
needle, and he had a heap of odds and 
ends in his canvas bag, in case of need, to 
mend his trousers or the sleeves of his 
jacket; he also knew how to braid horse- 
hairs, and with the clay in the valley he 
used to wash out his own handkerchief 
which he wore around his neck when it 
was cold. In fact, provided he had his 

* Hill with a cross on it. 


bag with him, he needed nothing in the 
world, whether he were in the woods of 
Resecone, or lost in the depths of the plain 
of Caltagirone. Gna Lia used to say, 

" Do you see Jeli, the shepherd ? He is 
always alone in the fields, as if he himself 
had been born a colt, and that's why he 
knows how to make the cross with his two 
hands ! " * 

Indeed, it is true that Jeli needed nothing, 
but everybody connected with the estate 
would have gladly helped him in any way 
because he was a serviceable lad, and there 
was always a chance of getting something 
from him. Gna Lia baked bread for him 
out of neighborly love, and he showed his 
gratitude by making her osier baskets for 
her eggs, reels of reeds, and other little 

" Let us do as his animals do," said gna 
Lia, "they scratch each other's backs." 

At Tebidi every one had known him 
since he was a baby; there was no time 

* /. e., a lusus nature?, abnormal I 


when he wasn't seen among the tails of 
the horses pasturing in the "field of the 
lettighiere" and he had grown up, so to 
speak, under their eyes, though really no 
one ever saw him very much, for he was 
forever here and there, roaming about with 
his drove. 

" He had rained down from heaven and 
the earth had taken him up," as the proverb 
has it ; he was just one of those who have 
neither home nor relatives. His mamma 
was out at service at Vizzini, and he never 
saw her more than once a year when he 
went with his colts to the fair of San Gio- 
vanni ; and the day that she died they came 
to call him it was one Saturday evening 
and on the following Monday Jeli was 
back with his drove, so that the contadino 
who had taken his place in looking after 
the horses might not lose a day's work; 
but the poor lad came back so upset that 
he kept letting the colts get into the 
ploughed land. 

" Ohe ! Jeli ! " cried massaro Agrippino, 


from the threshing-floor. "You want to 
have a taste of the rope's end, do you, you 
son of a dog ? " 

Jeli started to run after his stray colts, 
and drove them mechanically toward the 
hill ; but always before his eyes he saw his 
mamma with her head done up in the white 
handkerchief. She would never speak to 
him more ! 

His father was a cow-herd at Ragoleti, 
beyond Licodia, " where the malaria could 
be harvested," as the peasants of that 
region say, meaning to signify its density ; 
but in the malarious lands the pasturage is 
fat and cows do not catch the fever. Jeli 
for that reason stayed in the fields all the 
year long, either at Don Ferrante's, or in 
the enclosure of la Commenda, or in the 
valley of il Jacitano, and the hunters or 
travellers who took cross-cut over the coun- 
try saw him in this place or in that, like a 
dog without a master. 

He did not suffer from this state of things 
because he was accustomed to be with his 


horses, as they moved about leisurely nib- 
bling the clover, and with the birds who 
flew around him in bevies, while the sun 
accomplished his daily journey, slowly, 
slowly, until the shadows grew long and 
then vanished; he had time to watch the 
clouds pile up on the horizon, one behind 
another, and imagine them mountains and 
valleys ; he knew how the wind blew when 
it brought thunder-showers, and what color 
the clouds were when it was going to snow. 
Everything had its aspect and significance, 
and his eyes and ears were kept on the 
alert all day long. In the same way when 
toward sunset the young herdsman began 
to play his alder-whistle, the brown mare 
would come up, lazily cropping the clover, 
and also stand looking with great, pensive 

The only place where he suffered a little 
from melancholy was in the desert lands of 
Passanitello, where not a grass-blade or a 
shrub is to be seen, and during the hot 
months not a bird flies. The horses there 


would cluster together with drooping heads 
to shade one another, and during the long 
days of the threshing that mighty silent 
radiance rained down without mitigation 
for sixteen hours. Wherever pasturage 
was abundant and the horses liked to loiter, 
the lad busied himself with something 
else he would make reed-cages for the 
crickets, or carved pipes and little baskets 
of bulrushes ; with four branches he could 
set up a shelter for himself when the North 
wind drove the long lines of crows through 
the valley, or, when the cicadae fluttered 
their wings in the broiling sun over the 
parched stubble ; he would roast acorns in 
the coals of his sumach fire and imagine 
they were chestnuts, or toast his thick slice 
of bread when it began to grow musty, be- 
cause, when he was at Passanitello in winter, 
the roads were so bad that sometimes a 
fortnight would elapse without a single 
soul passing. 

Don Alfonso, who had been kept in cot- 
ton by his parents, envied his friend Jeli 


the canvas bag in which he stored his 
effects, his bread, his onions, his bottle 
of wine, his neckerchief for cold weather, 
his little hoard of rags and thread and 
needles, his little tin food-box and his flint ; 
he envied him especially that superb spotted 
mare, that animal with rough forelock and 
wicked eyes, swelling her indignant nostrils 
like a fierce mastiff when anyone tried to 
mount her. Sometimes she would allow 
Jeli to get on her back and scratch her 
ears ; she was jealous of him, and would 
come smelling round to find out what he 
was saying. 

" Let the vajata be," Jeli would say, 
"She isn't ugly, but she doesn't know 

After Scordu from Bucchiere took away 
the Calabrian which he had bought at San 
Giovanni's Fair, under agreement to keep 
her in the drove until vintage time, Zaino, 
the bay colt, orphaned, refused to be com- 
forted and galloped over the mountain 
precipices with long, lamenting neighings, 


and its nose in the wind. Jeli ran behind 
it, calling to it with loud shouts, and the 
colt paused to listen with its head in the 
air, and its ears pricking back and forth, 
and switching its flanks with its tail. 

" It 's because they have carried off his 
mother, and he does n't know what to make 
of it," observed the herdsman. " Now we 
must keep him in sight, for he would be 
capable of jumping over the precipice. 
That was the way I felt when my mamma 
died; I couldn't see with my eyes." 

Then, after the colt began to try the 
clover and to make believe bite : 

" See ! he is gradually beginning to for- 
get ... But this one will be sold, too. 
Horses are made to be sold, just as lambs 
are born to go to the butcher, and the 
clouds to bring the rain. Only the birds 
have nothing else to do but sing and fly all 

These ideas did not come to him clear 
cut and in sequence one after the other, 
for it was rarely that he had anyone to talk 


with, and, therefore, he had no cause for 
haste in starting them up and disentangling 
them in the depths of his brain, where he 
was accustomed to let them sprout and 
grow gradually, as the twigs burgeon under 
the sun. 

" Even the birds," he added, " have to 
hunt for food, and when the snow covers 
the ground they perish." 

Then he pondered for a moment, " You 
are like the birds ; but when winter comes 
you can sit by the fire and do nothing." 

But Don Alfonso replied that he too 
went to school and had to study. Jeli 
opened his eyes wide and was all ears, 
while the signorino began to read, and he 
looked at the book and at the young master 
himself with a suspicious air, listening with 
that slight winking of the eyelids which 
indicates intensity of attention in beasts 
little accustomed to mankind. 

He was delighted with the poetry that 
caressed his ears with the harmony of an 
incomprehensible song, and occasionally he 


frowned, drew up his chin, and made it evi- 
dent that a great mental operation was tak- 
ing place within him ; then he nodded " yes, 
yes," with a crafty smile, and scratched 
his head. Then when the signorino started 
to write so as to show how many things 
he knew how to do, Jeli could have staid 
whole days watching him ; and suddenly he 
would look round suspiciously. He could 
not be persuaded that the words that were 
said either by him or by Don Alfonso could 
possibly be repeated on paper, and still 
more those things that had not proceeded 
from their mouths, and he ended with that 
shrewd smile. 

Every new idea which knocked for en- 
trance at his head made him suspicious ; he 
seemed to try it with the wild diffidence of 
his vajata. But he expressed no wonder at 
anything in the world ; he might have been 
told that in cities horses rode in carriages, 
he would have kept on that mask of 
oriental indifference which is the dignity of 
a Sicilian peasant. It would seem as if he 


intrenched himself instinctively in his ignor- 
ance, as if it were the force of poverty. 
Every time that he remained short of argu- 
ments he would repeat, 

" I do not know at all. I am poor/' with 
that obstinate smile that was intended to 
be shrewd. 

He had asked his friend Alfonso to 
write for him the name of Mara on a piece 
of paper that he had found somewhere, be- 
cause it was his habit to pick up whatever 
he saw lying about and put into his packet 
of odds and ends. One day, after being 
rather quiet and looking round anxiously, 
he said, very gravely, 

" I 'm in love with some one." 

Alfonso, though he knew how to read, 
opened his eyes in astonishment. 

"Yes," continued Jeli, " massaro Agrip- 
pino's daughter Mara, who used to be here ; 
but now they're at Marineo, in that great 
house in the plain that you can see from 
the t plain of the lettighiere ' yonder." 

*' O you 're going to get married, then ? " 


" Yes, when I 'm grown up and have six 
onze a year wages. Mara knows nothing 
about it." 

" Why, have n't you told her ? " 

Jeli shook his head and reflected. Then 
he opened his hoard and unfolded the 
paper which bore the written name. 

" It must be that it says * Mara ' ; Don 
Gesualdo, the campiere? has read it; and 
fra Cola, when he came down here begging 
for beans." 

" He who knows how to write," he went 
on saying, " is like one who preserves words 
in his tinder-box and can carry them in his 
pocket, and even send them this way and 

" Now what are you going to do with 
that piece of paper that you can't read ? " 
asked Alfonso. 

Jeli shrugged his shoulders, but kept on 
carefully folding his written leaf to put 
away in his heap of odds and ends. 

He had known la Mara ever since she 

* Field guard. 


was a little girl. Their acquaintance had 
begun in a pitched battle once when they 
met down in the valley, both of them after 
blackberries. The little girl, knowing that 
she was "within her rights," had seized 
Jeli by the neck as if he were a thief. 
For awhile they exchanged blows on the 
slope "You one, I one," as the cooper 
does on the hoops of his barrels ; but when 
they got tired of it they gradually calmed 
down, though they still had each other by 
the hair. 

" Who are you ? " demanded Mara. 

And when Jeli with less breeding re- 
fused to tell who he was, 

" I am Mara, the daughter of Massaro 
Agrippino, who is the keeper of all these 
fields here." 

Jeli then let his grasp relax, and the 
little girl set to work to pick up the black- 
berries that had fallen during their strug- 
gle, now and then glancing with curiosity 
at her antagonist. 

" Just beyond the bridge, on the edge of 


the orchard, there are lots of big berries," 
suggested the little maid, " and the hens 
are eating them." 

Jeli meantime was creeping off stealthily, 
and Mara, after standing on tip-toe to 
watch him disappearing in the grove, 
turned her back and ran home as fast as 
her legs would carry her. 

But from that day forth they began to 
be friends. Mara went with her hemp to 
spin on to the parapet of the little bridge, 
and Jeli would slowly drive his cattle 
toward the slopes of the poggio del Bandito. 
At first he kept at a distance, roving 
around and looking from afar, with suspi- 
cion in his face, but he kept gradually 
edging near, with the watchful gait of a 
dog used to stones. When at last he 
joined her, they remained long hours with- 
out speaking a word, Jeli attentively watch- 
ing the intricate work of the stockings 
which Mara's mamma had hung round her 
neck, or she looking on while he carved 
his pretty zig-zags on the almond sticks. 


Then they would separate, he going one 
way, she the other, without saying a word, 
and the little girl as soon as she was in 
sight of her house would start to run, kick- 
ing high her petticoat with her little red 

When the prickly pears were ripe they 
would settle down in the thick of the bushes, 
peeling the figs all the live-long day. They 
would wander together under the imme- 
morial walnuts, and Jeli would beat so 
many of the walnuts that they would 
shower down thick as hail, and the girl 
would tire herself out picking them up with 
jubilant shouts more than she could 
carry; and then she would scamper away 
nimbly, holding up the two corners of her 
apron, bobbing like a little old woman. 

During the winter time, Mara dared not 
put her nose out of doors, it was so cold. 
Sometimes toward evening could be seen 
the smoke of Jeli's fires of sumach wood, 
which he built on the Piano del lettighiere, or 
on the Poggio di Macca, so as not to perish 


of the cold, like the tomtits which he some- 
times found in the morning behind some 
rock, or in the shelter of a clod. The 
horses also found pleasure in dangling 
their tails around the fire, and they would 
cuddle close together so as to be warmer. 

In March, the larks came back to the 
plain, the sparrows to the roofs, the leaves 
and the nests to the hedges. Mara took 
up her habit of going about with Jeli in 
the soft grass among the flowering bushes 
under the still bare trees which were just 
beginning to show tender points of green. 
Jeli would make his way through the 
brambles like a bloodhound, so as to dis- 
cover the nests of the blackbirds which 
would look up to him in astonishment with 
their little keen eyes; the two children 
would carry, cuddled in their hearts, little 
wee rabbits just born, almost without fur, 
but already quick to move their long ears. 

They would scour the fields in pursuit 
of the drove of horses, entering the plains 
behind the hay-gatherers, step for step 


with the herd, pausing every time that a 
mare stopped to pluck a mouthful of grass. 
At evening, when they got back to the 
bridge, they separated, he going in one 
direction, she in another, without saying 

Thus they passed the whole summer. 
When the sun began to go down behind 
the Poggio alia Croce, the robin red-breasts 
also went toward the mountain, as it grew 
dark, following the light among the clumps 
of prickly pears. The crickets and cicadae 
were no longer heard, and at that hour a 
great melancholy spread through the air. 

About that time, to Jeli's tumble-down 
hovel came his father, the cowherd, who 
had caught the malaria at Ragoleti, and 
could scarcely dismount from the ass which 
brought him. Jeli started a fire quickly, 
and ran to " the hall " for some hen's eggs. 

" Put a little straw down in front of the 
fire as soon as you can," said his father, 
" for I feel the fever returning." 

The chill of the fever was so severe that 


compare Menu buried under his thick 
cloak, the saddle-bags of the ass and Jeli's 
sacks shook as the leaves do in Novem- 
ber, in spite of the great blaze of branches 
which made his face white as a corpse. 

The contadini of the farm came to ask 

"How do you think you feel, compare 

The poor man could only answer with 
a whine like a sucking puppy. 

" It 's a kind of malaria that kills more 
surely than a rifle bullet," said his friends, 
as they warmed their hands at the fire. 

The doctor was called, but it was money 
thrown away, because the disease is one of 
those clear and evident ones which even a 
boy would know how to cure ; unless the 
fever happens to be so severe that it will 
kill at any rate, a little quinine cures it 

Compare Menu spent the eyes of his 
head for quinine but it was as good as 
thrown down a well. 


" Take a good dose of ecalibbiso tea, 
which does not cost anything," suggested 
massaro Agrippino, u and if it does n't 
work as well as quinine it does n't ruin you 
by its cost." 

So he took the decoction of eucaliptus, 
but the fever returned all the same, and 
even more violently. Jeli attended to his 
father the best he knew how. Every morn- 
ing before he went off with his colts, he left 
him his medicine all prepared in a drink- 
ing cup, his bundle of dry branches within 
reach, his eggs in the hot ashes, and he 
came back as early as he could in the 
afternoon with more wood for the night, 
and the bottle of wine and a little piece of 
mutton, which he had gone as far as 
Licodia to buy for him. The poor lad did 
everything as handily as a clever maiden 
would have done, and his father, following 
him with weary eyes in his operations 
about the hovel, sometimes smiled to think 
that the boy would be able to do for him- 
self in case he were left alone in the world. 


On days when the fever left him for a 
few hours, compare Menu would get up, all 
feeble as he was, and with his head 
wrapped in his handkerchief, would stagger 
out to the door to wait for Jeli while the 
sun was still warm. When Jeli dropped 
the bundle of wood at the door-steps, and 
placed the bottle and the eggs on the table, 
he would say to him, 

" Put the ecalibbiso to boiling for to- 
night," or, " Remember that your aunt 
Agata has charge of your mother's money, 
when I shall be no more." 

Jeli would nod " yes " with his head. 

" It is hopeless," said massaro Agrippino, 
every time he came to see compare Menu 
and his fever. " His blood is all diseased 
by this time." 

Compare Menu listened without winking, 
with his face whiter than his night-cap. 

He now no longer got up. Jeli began to 
weep when he found himself not strong 
enough to help him turn from one side to 
the other ; shortly after compare Menu lay 


perfectly still. The last words that he 
spoke to his boy were, 

"When I am dead, go to the owner of 
the cows at Ragoleti and let him give you 
the three onze and the twelve tumoli of corn, 
which are my due from March till now." 

" No," replied Jeli, " it 's only two onze 
and a half, because you left the cows more 
than a month ago, and one must be fair to 
one's padrone" 

" True ! " agreed compare Menu, closing 
his eyes. 

" Now I am quite alone in the world, 
like a lost colt which the wolves may eat ! " 
said Jeli to himself, when his father had 
been carried off to the cemetery of Licodia. 

Mara had been one of those who came 
to see the dead man's house with that 
morbid curiosity which is excited by hor- 
rible things. 

" Do you see how I am left ? " asked 
Jeli, but the girl drew back so frightened 
that he could not induce her to step inside 
the house where the dead man had been. 


Jeli went to receive the money due his 
father, and then he started off with his 
drove for Passanitello, where the grass was 
already tall on the fallow-land, and the 
fodder was abundant ; therefore, the colts 
remained there for some time in pasture. 

Meantime Jeli had been growing into a 
big lad, and Mara also must be grown tall, 
he often thought to himself, while he played 
on his zufalo; and when he returned to 
Tebidi after some little time, slowly driv- 
ing forward the mares through the dan- 
gerous paths of " Uncle Cosimo's Foun- 
tain," he scanned the little bridge down in 
the valley, and the hovel in the Valle del 
Jacitano, and the roof of " the Hall " where 
the pigeons were always flying. 

But at that time the padrone had dis- 
missed massaro Agrippino, and all Mara's 
family were just on the point of moving 

Jeli found the girl, who had grown tall 
and very pretty, standing at the entrance 
of the yard watching the furniture and 


things, which they were loading on the cart. 
The empty room seemed to him more 
gloomy and smoky than ever before. The 
table, the commode and the images of the 
Virgin and of Saint John, and even the 
nails for hanging up the gourds for seed 
had left on the walls the marks where they 
had been for so many years. 

" We are going away/' said Mara, when 
she saw him looking around. "We are 
going down to Marineo, where the great 
house stands in the plain." 

Jeli took hold and helped massaro Agrip- 
pino and la gnci Lia load up the cart, and 
when there was nothing else to carry out 
of the room he went and sat down with 
Mara on the edge of the watering-trough. 

: ' Even houses," he remarked, when- he 
saw the last hamper piled on, " even houses, 
when anything is taken away from them, 
do not any longer seem the same." 

" At Marineo," replied Mara, " we shall 
have much better rooms, mamma says, and 
large as the cheese house." 


" Now that you are going away, I shall 
not want to come here any more ; it seems 
to me as if winter had come back to see 
that door closed." 

" At Marineo we shall find other friends, 
Pudda la rossa and the campiere's daughter ; 
it will be jolly there ; they have more than 
eighty harvesters in the season, and the 
bag-pipes, and they dance on the threshing- 

Massaro Agrippino and his wife had 
gone off with the cart. Mara ran behind 
them, full of joyous excitement, carrying 
the baskets with the pigeons. Jeli was 
going to accompany her as far as the little 
bridge ; and when Mara was just on the 
point of disappearing down the valley he 
called after her, " Mara ! oh ! Mara ! " 

" What do you want ? " demanded Mara. 

He knew not what he wanted. 

" Oh ! what will you do here all alone ? " 
asked the girl. 

" I shall stay with the colts." 

Mara ran skipping away, and he stood 


there as if rooted to the spot so as to catch 
the last sounds of the cart rattling over 
the stones. 

The sun was just resting on the high 
rocks of the Poggio alia Croce, the gray 
crests of the olive trees were shading into 
the twilight and over the vast campagna 
far away, nothing was heard except the 
tinkling bell of " Bianca" in the gathering 

Mara, now that she was in the midst of 
new faces and amid all the bustle of the 
grape gathering, forgot about Jeli ; but he 
was always thinking about her, because he 
had nothing else to do in the long days 
that he spent looking at the horses' tails. 
There was now no special reason for him to 
go down into the valley beyond the bridge, 
and no one ever saw him any more at the 

Thus it was that he was for some time 
ignorant that Mara had become betrothed 
so much water had run and run under 
the bridge. The only time that he saw 


the girl was on the day of Saint John's Festa^ 
when he went to the fair with his colts to 
sell ; a festa which changed everything for 
him into poison, and caused the bread to 
fall out of his mouth by reason of an acci- 
dent that befel one of the padrone's colts 
the Lord deliver us ! 

On the day of the fair, the factor waited 
for the colts ever since dawn, walking im- 
patiently up and down in his well-polished 
boots behind the groups of horses and 
mules that came filing in along the highway 
from this direction and that. It was al- 
most time for the fair to close, and still 
Jeli with his animals was not in sight be- 
yond the turn made by the highway. On 
the parched slopes of Calvario and the 
Mulino a vento the Wind-Mill Mountain 
there remained only a few droves of sheep 
gathered in a circle, with noses drooping 
and weary eyes, and a few yoke of oxen 
with long hair of the kind that are sold 
to satisfy unpaid rent, waiting motionless 
under the boiling sun. 


Yonder toward the valley, the bell of 
San Giovanni's was ringing for High 
Mass, accompanied by the long crackling 
of the fireworks. 

Then the fair grounds seemed to spring 
up, and there ran a prolonged cry among 
the shops of the green grocers, clustered 
in the place called salita del Galli, spread- 
ing through the country roads and seeming 
to return from the valley where the church 

" Viva San Giovanni ! " 

" Santo diavolone ! " screamed the factor. 
" That assassin of a Jeli will make me lose 
the fair ! " 

The sheep lifted their heads in astonish- 
ment and began to bleat all at once, and 
the cattle also made a step or two, slowly 
looking around with their great, calm eyes. 

The factor was in a rage because he was 
expected that day to pay the rent due for 
the large enclosures as the contract ex- 
pressed it, "when Saint John arrived under 
the elm ; " and to make up the full sum, 


the profits on the sale of the colts was nec- 
essary. Meantime the colts and horses 
and mules were coming in such numbers 
as the good Lord had seen fit to make, all 
curried and shining and adorned with tas- 
sels and cockades and bells; and they 
were switching their tails to while away 
their tedium, and turning their heads 
toward every one who passed, and evi- 
dently waiting for some charitable soul 
willing to buy them. 

" He must have gone to sleep on the 
way, the assassin ! " yelled the factor, " and 
so made me lose the sale of my colts." 

In reality, Jeli had travelled all night so 
that the colts might reach the fair fresh, 
and get a good position on their arrival ; 
.and he had reached the piano del Corvo, 
and the " three kings " had not yet set, 
but were shining over monte Arturo. 
There was a continuous procession of 
carts passing along the road, and people 
mounted on horses or mules going to the 
festa. Therefore, the young fellow kept 


his eyes open so that the colts, frightened 
by the unusual commotion, might not get 
away, but that he might keep them to- 
gether along the ridge of the road behind 
la bianca, the white mare, who with the 
bell around her neck, always travelled 
straight ahead without minding anything. 

From time to time, when the road ran 
over the crest of the hills, the bell of 
Saint John's could be heard in the distance, 
and in the darkness and silence of the 
plain the rumor of the festa was distin- 
guishable, and along the whole road far 
away, wherever there were people on foot 
or on horseback going to Vizzini, were 
heard shouts of " Viva San Giovanni!" 
And the rockets rose up high in the air 
and brilliant behind the mountains of la 
Canzaria, like the rain of meteors in 

" It is like Christmas Eve ! " Jeli kept 
saying to the boy, who was helping him 
drive the herd. "And in every place 
there is feasting and light, and through- 


out the whole campagna you can see fire- 

The boy was half asleep as he forced 
one leg after the other, and he made no 
response ; but Jeli, who felt his blood stir 
within him at the sound of that bell, could 
not keep quiet, as if each one of those 
rockets that left their silent shining trails 
on the darkness behind the mountains 
burst forth from his soul. 

" Mara also must be going to the festa 
of Saint John," he said, " because she goes 
every year." 

And without caring because the boy 
made no reply, 

" Don't you know ? Mara is now so big 
that she must be taller than her mother, 
and when I saw her last I could n't believe 
that it was the very same girl with whom I 
used to go after prickly pears and knock 
off the nuts. 

And he began to sing at the top of his 
voice all the songs that he knew. 

" Oh Alfio, why do you sleep ? " he 


cried, when he was through with them. 
" Look out that you keep la bianca always 
behind you, look out ! " 

" No, I am not asleep," replied Alfio, 
with a hoarse voice. 

" Do you see la puddara* which stands 
winking down at us yonder, as if they were 
firing up rockets also at Santa Domenica ? 
It is almost sunrise; we shall reach the 
fair in time to secure a good position. Ah ! 
morellino bello ! you pretty little brownie ! 
You shall have a new halter, that you 
shall, with red cockades for the fair ; and 
so shall you, stellato!^ 

Thus he went on, talking to one and 
another of his colts so that they might be 
encouraged hearing his voice in the dark- 
ness. But it grieved him to think that 
the stellato and the morellino were going to 
the fair to be sold. 

* La puddara is the Sicilian name for Ursa Major, 
the Big Bear. 

t Stellato, starred, said of a horse with a white spot in 
his forehead. 


" When they are sold, they '11 go off with 
a new master, and we shan't see them any 
more in the herd, just as it was with Mara 
after she went to Marineo. 

" Her father is well-to-do down there at 
Marineo, and when I was there, found 
myself, poor fellow that I was, sitting down 
to bread and wine and cheese, and every- 
thing good that God gives, and as if he 
were the factor himself, and he has the 
keys to everything, and I could eat up 
the whole place if I had wanted. Mara 
scarcely knew me, it had been so long 
since we had seen each other, and she 
cried out, ' Oh, look! there's Jeli the 
guardian of the horses, from Tebidi. He 
is like one who comes home from abroad, 
who only at the sight of the distant moun- 
tain-top is quick enough to recognize the 
country where he grew up.' Gna Lia 
did n't want me to speak to her daughter 
with the thee and the thou, because Mara 
had grown to be so big, and the people 
who don't know about things easily gos- 


sip. But Mara only laughed, and looked 
as if she had only just that minute been 
baking the bread, so rosy her face was ; she 
was getting the dinner ready, and she was 
unfolding the table-cloth, and she seemed 
different. l Oh, have you forgotten Tebidi ? ' 
I asked her as soon as gna Lia went out 
to broach a fresh cask of wine. ' No, no, 
I have n't forgotten ' said she. ' At Tebidi 
there was a bell with a campanile looking 
like the handle of a salt-cellar, and there 
used to be two stone cats which stood at 
the entrance of the garden.' I felt all 
through me those things that she was say- 
ing. Mara looked at me from head to 
heels, with her eyes wide open, and then 
she said, ' How tall you 've grown ! ' and 
then she began to laugh, and then she 
patted me on the head here ! " 

In this way Jeli, the guardian of the 
horses, came to lose his place ; for just at 
that instant there suddenly appeared a 
coach, which had given no sign of its ap- 
proach, because it had been slowly climb- 


ing the steep ascent, but started off at full 
speed as soon as it reached the level ground 
at the top, with a great cracking of whips 
and jingling of bells, as if it were carried 
by the devil himself. The colts, in alarm, 
galloped off quicker than a flash, as if there 
had been an earthquake, and all the shouts 
and cries and ohi! ohi ! ohi's ! of Jeli and 
the boy scarcely sufficed to collect them 
again around la bianca, who in spite of her 
gravity had shied away desperately with 
the bell around her neck. 

When Jeli had counted over his animals 
he discovered that stellato was missing, and 
he buried his hands in his hair, because at 
that place the road ran along side a deep 
ravine, and it was down in that ravine that 
stellato broke his back a colt worth a 
dozen onze, like a dozen angels from Para- 
dise ! Weeping and shouting he went 
calling the colt ahu ! ahu ! It was too dark 
to see it. At last stellato replied from the 
bottom of the ravine with a melancholy 
neigh, as if it had human speech, poor 
creature ! 


" Oh, mamma mia ! " cried Jeli and the 
boy, as they went to it. "Oh, what bad 
luck ! mamma mia ! " 

The travellers on their way to the festa, 
hearing such a lamentation in the dark- 
ness, asked what they had lost, and then 
when they learned what had happened, 
went on their way. 

The stellato remained motionless where 
it had fallen, with its legs in the air, and 
while Jeli was feeling it all over, weeping 
and talking to it as if he could make it 
understand, the poor creature stretched 
out its neck painfully and turned its head 
toward him, and then could be heard its 
breathing, cut short by its agony. 

" Something must be broken ! " mourned 
Jeli in despair, because nothing could be 
seen in the darkness ; and the colt, inert as 
a rock, let its head fall back. Alfio, who 
remained on the road above in charge of 
the drove, had begun to view the matter 
more calmly, and had taken out his bread 
from his bag. 


The sky by this time was beginning to 
grow pale, and the mountains all around 
seemed to be blossoming out, one after 
another, dark and high. From the bend 
in the road the country round about began 
to stand out, with monte del Calvario and 
monte del Mulino a vento the Windmill 
Mountain outlined against the dawn. 
They were still in shadow, but the flocks of 
sheep made white blurs, and as the herds 
of cattle grazing along the ridge of the 
mountains wandered hither and thither 
against the azure sky, it seemed as if the 
profile of the mountain itself were alive 
and full of motion. 

The bell from the depths of the valley 
was no longer heard ; travellers were grow- 
ing less numerous, and those who passed 
along were in haste to reach the fair. 
Poor Jeli knew not what saint to call on in 
that solitude. Alfio himself could not help 
him in any way; so the boy continued 
breaking off the morsels of his loaf leis- 


At last the factor was seen coming along 
mounted, cursing and swearing as he 
came, at seeing his animals stopped on 
the road. When Alfio saw him he ran off 
down the hill. But Jeli did not stir from 
the side of the stellato. The factor left his 
mule by the roadside, and climbed down 
into the ravine. He tried to help the colt 
to rise ; he pulled him by the tail. 

" Let him be," said Jeli, as white in the 
face as if it were himself whose back was 
broken. " Let him be ! Don't you see 
that he can't move, poor creature." 

The stellate, in fact, at every movement 
and at every attempt made to help him, 
set up a screech that seemed human. The 
factor fell on Jeli tooth and nail, and gave 
him as many kicks as there are angels and 
saints in Paradise. By this time Alfio had 
got his courage back, and had returned to 
the road, so that the animals might not be 
without a guardian, and he tried to excuse 
himself, saying, "'T was n't my fault. I 
was on ahead with the bianca" 


" There 's nothing more to be done/' 
said the factor at last, having persuaded 
himself that it was all time lost. " Noth- 
ing can be done with this colt but to take 
his pelt ; that 's good for something." 

Jeli began to tremble like a leaf when he 
saw the factor go and fetch his gun from 
the mule's pack. 

" Get off of him, good-for-nothing ! " 
shouted the factor. " I don't know what 
keeps me from laying you out beside this 
colt, which is worth more than you, in 
spite of the swine's baptism which that 
thief of a priest gave you ! " 

The stellato, unable to move, turned its 
head, with its big, steady eyes, as if it 
understood every word, and its skin crisped 
in waves along the back-bone as if a chill 
ran over it. 

In that way, the factor killed the stellato 
on the spot, so as at least to save his pelt, 
and the dull noise which the gun held at 
short range made, as the charge pierced 
the living flesh, Jeli thought he felt in his 
own heart. 


" Now if you want a piece of advice 
from me," said the factor, as he left him 
there, " I 'd not let the master lay eyes on 
you, in spite of that bit of wages due you, 
for you may be sure, he 'd give it to you 
with a vengeance ! " 

The factor went off together with Alfio, 
taking along the other colts, which did not 
once turn round to see what had become 
of the stellato, but proceeded cropping the 
grass along the ridge. The poor stellato 
was left alone in the ravine waiting for the 
knacker to flay him, its eyes were still wide 
open, and its four legs stretched into the 
air, for to stretch them up was the only 
thing it could do. 

Jeli, now that he had seen how the factor 
had been able to aim at the colt, as it 
painfully lifted its head in fear, and had 
been courageous enough to fire off the gun 
at it, no longer wept, but remained sitting 
on a rock looking at the stellato till the 
men came to take off the pelt. Now he 
might go at his own pleasure and enjoy the 


festa, or stand in the square all day long 
and see the gentlemen in the cafe, as best 
pleased him, for now he no longer had 
bread or a shelter, and it behooved him to 
find a new padrone, if any one would take 
him after the misfortune of the stellato. 

Thus go things in this world : While 
Jeli was seeking a new employer, walking 
about with his bag over his shoulder and 
his staff in his hand, the band was playing 
gayly in the square, with plumes in their 
caps, and surrounded by a merry throng 
of white hats thick as flies, and the gentle- 
men were enjoying themselves as they sat 
at their coffee. All the people were 
dressed in holiday attire like the animals 
of the fair, and in one corner of the square 
was a lady, with a short gown and flesh- 
colored stockings, making her appear bare- 
legged, and she was pounding on a great 
box before a great painted sheet on which 
appeared a slaughter of Christians with 
blood flowing in torrents, and, there among 
the throng, gazing with open mouth, was 


massaro Cola, whom he used to know when 
he was at Passanitello, and he told him that 
he would find him an employer, because 
compare Isidoro Macca was in want of a 
herdsman for his hogs. 

" But I would n't say anything about 
stellato" recommended massaro Cola. " A 
misfortune like that might happen to any 
one in the world. But it is best not to 
talk about it." 

So they went in search of compare 
Macca, who was at the ball, and while 
massaro Cola went to plead his cause, Jeli 
waited outside in the street in the midst of 
the throng, who were gazing in at the door 
of the hall. In the big room, there was a 
world of people jumping about enjoying 
themselves, all flushed and perspiring, and 
making a great trampling on the floor, 
while above all was heard the ron ron of 
the double bass, and as soon as one piece 
of music, costing a grano? was finished 
they would all lift their fingers to signify 

*A fraction of a soldo, or cent. 


that they wanted another ; and the man of 
the double bass would make a cross with a 
piece of charcoal on the wall, to keep 
account to the last, and then begin over 

" Those in there spend without thought," 
said Jeli, to himself. "That means that 
they have their pockets full and are not in 
trouble as I am, for lack of an employer, 
and if they sweat and tire themselves out 
in dancing, it is for their own pleasure, as 
if they were paid by the day." 

Massaro Cola came back saying that 
compare Macca needed no one. 

Then Jeli turned away, and walked off 
gloomily, gloomily. 

Mara's home was toward Sant' Antonio, 
where the houses climb up the mountain- 
side, facing the valley of la Canziria, all 
green with prickly pears, and with the mill- 
wheels churning the water into foam in 
the lowlands by the stream. But Jeli 
had n't the courage to go in that direction, 
now that they needed no one to watch the 


swine ; and, making his way amid the 
throng which jostled him and pushed him 
without any thought of him, he seemed 
more alone than ever he had been when he 
was with his colts in the plains of Passa- 
nitello, and he felt like weeping. 

At last massaro Agrippino, wandering 
about with his arms swinging, and enjoying 
the festa, fell in with him in the square, 
and shouted to him, 

" Oh ! Jeli ! oh ! " and took him home. 

Mara was in gala dress, with such long 
ear-rings that they hung down to her 
cheeks, and she was standing on the 
threshold with her hands folded, loaded 
with rings, waiting till it should grow dark, 
so as to go and see the fireworks. 

" Oh ! " said Mara to him, " so you have 
come also for thefesta of Saint John! " 

Jeli did not want to go in because he 
was shabbily dressed, but massaro Agrip- 
pino forced him in saying that it was not 
the first time they had ever seen each 
other, and that he knew that he had come 


to the fair with his employer's colts. Gna 
Lia poured him out a good generous glass 
of wine, and wanted to take him with them 
to see the illuminations, together with the 
comari and their other neighbors. 

When they reached the square Jeli stood 
with open mouth, wondering at the specta- 
cle ; the whole square seemed a sea of fire 
as when the steppes are burning, and the 
reason was the great number of torches 
which the devout lighted under the eyes of 
the saint, who stood enjoying it all at the 
entrance of il Rosario all black under his 
silver baldachin. The acolytes were com- 
ing and going amid the flames like so 
many demons, and there was, moreover, a 
woman in loose attire and with dishevelled 
hair, and with her eyes staring out of her 
head, also engaged in lighting the candles, 
and a priest in a black soutane and with- 
out a hat, like one rendered crazy by 

" There 's the son of massaro Neri, the 
factor of Saloni, and he is spending more 


than ten lire for rockets," said gna Lia, 
pointing to a young man who was going 
round through the square holding two 
rockets in each hand, just like candles, so 
that all the women devoured him with their 
eyes, and cried to him: "Viva San Gio- 

" His father is rich and owns more than 
twenty head of cattle," added massaro 

Mara also knew well that he had carried 
the great banner in the procession, and held 
it as straight as a pillar such a strong and 
handsome youth was he. 

Massaro Neri's son seemed to have 
heard them, and he set off his rockets for 
Mara, making the wheel of fire before her, 
and after this part of the fireworks was 
over, he joined them, and took them to the 
ball and to the cosmorama, where the new 
world and the old world were to be seen 
depicted, and he paid for them all, even 
for Jeli, who followed behind the others 
like a masterless cur, to see massaro Neri's 


son dancing with Mara, who whirled round 
and crouched down like a dove on a roof, 
and held daintily up the corner of her 
apron, and massaro Neri's son gamboling 
like a colt, so that gna Lia wept like a 
child at the consolation of the sight, and 
massaro Agrippino nodded with his head 
to signify that all was going to his mind. 

At last when they were all tired, they 
went out where the people were promenad- 
ing, and they were carried away by the 
crowd as if they were in the midst of a 
torrent, and there they saw the transparen- 
cies lighted where the decapitation of Saint 
John was represented with such faithfulness 
that it would have moved the heart of a 
Turk, and the saint kicked out his legs like 
a goat under the hatchet. Near by the 
band was playing under a great wooden 
umbrella, all lighted up, and in the square 
there was such a crowd that one would 
have said never before had so many 
Christians come to the fair. 

Mara went holding massaro Neri's son's 


arm, as if she were a fine lady, and she 
whispered into his ear and laughed, as if 
she were having a fine time. Jeli was 
utterly tired out, and actually went to sleep 
sitting on the sidewalk till the first bombs 
of the fireworks were sent up. At that 
moment Mara was still by the side of 
massaro Neri's son, leaning against him 
with her hands clasped on his shoulder, 
and in the different-colored lights from the 
fireworks she seemed now all white and 
now all rosy. When the last sparks died 
away in the darkness of the sky, massaro 
Neri's son turned toward her, with green 
light on his face, and gave her a kiss. 

Jeli said nothing, but at that instant all 
that he had enjoyed till then changed into 
poison, and he began once more to think 
of his misfortunes, which he had for the 
moment forgotten that he was without 
an employer and knew not what to do, 
nor where to go, that he had no food or 
shelter; that the dogs might eat him as 
they were eating the poor stellato left down 


in the bottom of the ravine, skinned to the 
hoofs ! 

Meantime, around him the people were 
still making merry in the darkness that 
had ensued; Mara, with her companions, 
was dancing and singing through the rock- 
paved streets as they turned homeward. 

"Good-night ! Good-night buona notte /" 
shouted the people to one another, as they 
were left at their own doors. Mara shouted 
"good-night buona notte !" in her musical 
voice, and it expressed her happiness, and 
massaro Neri's son did not see fit to leave 
her while massaro Agrippino and gna Lia 
were disputing about the opening of the 
house door. No one gave Jeli a thought, 
till at last massaro Agrippino remembered 
him, and said, 

" And where are you going ? " 

" I don't know," said Jeli. 

" Come and see me to-morrow and I will 
help you find a place. For to-night, go 
back to the square where we have been 
hearing the band play. You '11 find a spot 


on some bench, and sleep out doors ; you 
must be used to that." 

Jeli was used to that, but what pained 
him was that Mara said nothing to him, 
but left him there at the door as if he were 
a beggar ; and the next day when he came 
back to see massaro Agrippino, he was 
hardly alone with the girl before he said to 

" Oh, gna Mara ! How you forget old 
friends ! " 

" Oh, is that you, Jeli ? " replied Mara. 
" No, I have n't forgotten you. But I was 
so tired after the fireworks ! " 

" You 're in love with him are n't you 
massaro Neri's son ? " demanded Jeli, twirl- 
ing his staff in his hands. 

" What are you saying?" abruptly inter- 
posed gna Mara. " My mother is- there 
and hears everything you say." 

Massaro Agrippino found him a place as 
shepherd at la Salonia, where massaro 
Neri was factor, but as Jeli was not very 
much skilled in taking care of sheep, he 


had to be content with far smaller wages 
than he had been having. 

Now he attended faithfully to his flocks, 
and strove to learn how cheese is made 
the ricotta and the caciocavallo, and all the 
other products of the flocks; but in the 
gossip that went on at eventide in the 
yard, among the shepherds and contadini, 
while the women were preparing the beans 
for the soup, if ever massaro Neri's son 
was mentioned as soon to marry massaro 
Agrippino's Mara, Jeli said not a word, 
and never dared open his mouth. 

One time when the keeper insulted him, 
by saying, jestingly, that Mara refused to 
have anything more to do with him, after 
every one had declared that they were to 
be husband and wife, Jeli, as he went to 
the pot where the milk was boiling, replied, 
as he slowly shook in the rennet, 

* " Now Mara has grown to be so pretty, 
she seems like a lady." 

But as he was patient and laborious, 
and quickly got hold of the secrets of the 


business, even better than one who had 
been born to it, and as he was accustomed 
to be with animals, he came to love his 
sheep as if they were his own, and for this 
reason the distemper il male did not 
do so much damage at la Salonia, and the 
flock prospered, so that it was a delight for 
massaro Neri every time that he came 
to the estate, and the next year it was 
no great trouble to induce the padrone to 
increase Jeli's wages, so that he came to 
have as much as he got in looking out for 
the horses. And it was money well spent, 
for Jeli never thought of reckoning up the 
miles and miles that he travelled in search 
of the best pasturage for his flock, and if 
the sheep were with young or were sick, he 
would take them to his saddle-bags and 
carry the lambs in his arms, and they 
would lick his face, thrusting their noses 
out of his pocket, and they would even 
suck his ears. 

In the famous snow storm of Santa 
Lucia's night, the snow fell four hand- 


breadths deep in the lago morto at la 
Salonia, and all around for miles and miles 
there was nothing else to be seen when day 
came, and nothing would have been left of 
the sheep but the ears, had not Jeli got up 
three or four times in the course of the 
night to drive the sheep into the yard, so 
that the poor beasts shook the snow from 
their backs and did not remain, as it were 
buried, as was the case in so many of the 
neighboring flocks at least so massaro 
Agrippino said when he came to give a 
look to a field of beans which he had at la 
Salonia, and he also said that that story of 
massaro Neri's son marrying his daughter 
Mara was a lie made up of whole cloth 
that Mara had some one else in mind. 

" It was said they were to be married at 
Christmas," said Jeli. 

" Nothing of the sort ; they are n't to 
marry at all ; it 's all the gossip of envious 
folks who meddle with others' business," 
replied massaro Agrippino. 

But the keeper, who had known about it 


for some time, having heard it talked about 
in town when he was there on Sunday, told 
the story as it really was, after massaro 
Agrippino had gone away. 

"The engagement was broken because 
massaro Neri's son had learned that 
massaro Agrippino's Mara was keeping 
company with Don Alfonso, the signorino, 
who had known Mara from a little girl ; 
and massaro Neri had declared that his 
son was to be a man respected as his 
father was, and the only horns he wanted 
in his house should be those of his oxen." 

Jeli was present at this conversation, sit- 
ting with the others in the circle at break- 
fast, and at that instant was cutting his 
bread. He still said nothing, but his appe- 
tite left him for that day. 

While he was driving his sheep but to 
pasture he began to think of Mara, as she 
had been when she was a little girl, when 
they were together all day long wandering 
through the valle deljacitano and over the 
poggio alia Croce, and how she stood look- 


ing at him, with her chin in the air, while 
he climbed up to the tree-tops after the 
birds' nests ; and he thought also of Don 
Alfonso, who used to come and see him 
from the neighboring villa, and how they 
would stretch themselves out on their 
bellies, stirring up crickets' nests with 
straws. All these things he considered 
and reconsidered for hours and hours, as 
he sat on the edge of the brook, holding 
his knees between his arms, and thinking 
of the tall walnuts of Tebidi, and the thick 
bushes in the valleys and the slopes of the 
hills, green with sumachs, and the gray 
olive trees spreading through the valley 
like a fog, and the red-tiled roof of the 
house, and the campanile that looked like 
"a handle of a salt cellar" among the 
oranges of the garden. 

Here the campagna stretched away 
naked, desert, speckled with dried grass, 
blending silently with the distant horizon. 

In Spring the bean pods had begun to 
fill out when Mara came to la Salonia with 


her father and mother and the boy and 
the ass, to pick the beans, and they all 
came together to sleep at the farm for two 
or three days during the picking. 

In this way Jeli saw the girl morning 
and evening, and they would sit together 
on the wall of the sheep-fold and talk, 
while the boy looked after the sheep. 

" It seems as if I were at Tebidi again," 
said Mara, "when we were little things, 
and used to stand on the foot bridge. 

Jeli also remembered everything, though 
he said little, being always a judicious 
youth, and of few words. 

When the harvest was over, and the eve 
of parting had come, Mara went out to talk 
with the young man, just as he was making 
" ricotto cheese," and he was wholly intent 
in skimming the whey with his ladle: 

" Now I '11 say addio" said she, " for to- 
morrow we return to Vizzini." 

" How have the beans gone ? " 

" Bad ! la lupa * has eaten them all this 

* A parasitic disease. 


" It depends on the rain which has been 
scarce/' said Jeli. "We have had to kill 
even the lambs because there has n't been 
enough feed for them. Over all of la 
Salonia there has n't been three inches of 

" But that does n't affect you. You al- 
ways have your wages, good year or bad." 

"Yes, that's so," said he. "But it dis- 
gusts me to give those poor creatures to 
the butcher." 

" Do you remember when you came for 
thefesta of Saint John, and were left with- 
out a padrone?" 

"Yes, I remember." 

" It was my father who got you a place 
here with massaro Neri." 

" And why did n't you marry massaro 
Neri's son ? " 

" Because it was n't the will of God. My 
father has been unlucky," she continued, 
after a brief pause. " Since we came to 
Marineo, everything has gone ill with us. 
The beans, the corn, that piece of vineyard 


that we have yonder. Then my brother 
went off to the army, and we lost a mule 
that was worth forty onze" 

" I know," said Jeli, " the bay mule." 

" Now, that we have lost all our prop- 
erty, who would want to marry me ? " 

Mara was breaking up a twig of briar 
while she said this, with her chin in her 
bosom, and, with her elbow, she gently 
nudged Jeli's elbow without appearing to 
mean it. But Jeli, with his eyes on the 
churn, also made no response, and she 
went on, 

"At Tebidi they used to say that you 
and I would be husband and wife, do you 
remember ? " 

" Yes," said Jeli, and he laid his ladle on 
the top of the churn. " But I am a poor 
shepherd, and I can not pretend to a 
massartfs daughter like you." 

La Mara remained silent for a little 
while, and then she said, " If you want 
me, I will willingly be yours." 



"Yes, really." 

" And what will massaro Agrippino say 
to it?" 

" My father says that now that you know 
your trade, and since you are not one of 
those who waste their wages, but make one 
soldo into two, and do not eat to consume 
bread, in time you will come to have flocks 
of your own, and will be rich." 

" If that is so," said Jeli, in conclusion, 
" I will gladly take you." 

"There," said Mara, as soon as it had 
grown dark and the sheep were relapsing 
into silence, " if you want a kiss, I will give 
you one, because we are going to be hus- 
band and wife." 

Jeli took one in " holy peace," and not 
knowing what to say, added, "I have always 
loved you, even when you were going to 
desert me for the son of massaro Neri." 

But he had not the heart to speak of the 
other one. 

"Don't you see? We were meant for 
one another," said Mara, in conclusion. 


Massaro Agrippino, in fact, said "Yes," 
and gna Lia put on a new gown, and she 
had a pair of velvet trousers made for their 
son-in-law. Mara was as lovely and fresh 
as a rose, with her white mantellina, re- 
minding you of the Paschal lamb, and that 
amber necklace which made her neck look 
so white ; so, when Jeli walked through the 
street at her side, he marched stiffly and 
erect, dressed in his new cloth and velvet 
suit, and he did not dare even blow his 
nose with his red silk handkerchief, lest he 
should make a fool of himself; and the 
neighbors and all who knew the story of 
Don Alfonso laughed in his face. 

When Mara said " sissignore? and the 
priest made her Jeli's wife with a grand 
sign of the cross, Jeli took her home, and 
it seemed to him as if they had given him 
all the gold of the Madonna, and all the 
lands that he had seen with his eyes. 

"Now that we are husband and wife," 
said he, when they reached their house, as 
he was sitting in front of her, and trying to 


appear very humble, "now that we are 
husband and wife, I may tell you that it 
does not seem to me true as you pre- 
tended you might have had ever so many 
better husbands than I so beautiful and 
gracious you are." 

The poor fellow could not find anything 
else to say, and he could not contain his 
delight to see Mara setting and arranging 
everything through the house, and playing 
la padrona. He found it impossible to tear 
himself away to return to la Salonia ; when 
he started Monday, he was very slow in 
arranging in the pack of the ass, his saddle- 
bags, and his cloak, and his umbrella. 

" You ought to come to la Salonia, your- 
self," he said to his wife, who was watch- 
ing him from the door-step. " You ought 
to come with me." 

But the young woman began to laugh, 
and replied that she was not born to look 
after sheep, and had no reason to go to la 

Truly, Mara was not born for tending 


sheep, and she was not accustomed to the 
January tramontana wind, which stiffens 
the hand on the staff, and it seems as if 
your fingers would drop off, or to furi- 
ous storms that come, when the water 
penetrates to your very bones, and again, 
when the dust drives choking through the 
streets, when the sheep travel under the 
boiling sun, or to the hard bed on the 
ground, and the mouldy bread, and the 
long, silent, solitary days, when through 
the arid fields nothing else is seen in the 
distance but occasionally some sun-burned 
peasant driving his ass silently along over 
the white, interminable road. 

Jeli knew at least that Mara was warm 
and comfortable under the quilts, or was 
spinning in front of the fire, talking with 
the women of the neighborhood, or was 
enjoying the sun on the balcony, while he 
was returning from the pasture tired and 
thirsty, or wet through with the rain, or 
when the wind drifted the snow back of 
his hut and put out his fire of branches. 


Every month Mara went to receive the 
wages from the padrone, and they lacked 
neither eggs nor fowls, nor oil in the lamp, 
nor wine in the jug. Twice a month Jeli 
came home to see her, and she would stand 
on the balcony looking for him with her 
spindle in her hand, and after he had left 
the ass in the stable and removed his pack 
and rilled the rack with oats, and placed 
the wood under the shed in the yard, or 
whatever he brought into the kitchen, 
Mara would help him hang his cloak on 
the nail and take off his leather leggings 
before the hearth, and pour him out a 
glass of wine, and set to work to boil the 
soup and get the table ready, quiet and 
thoughtful, like a good housewife, while 
talking of this thing and that, of the 
brooding hen that was setting, of the cloth 
that was on the loom, of the calf which 
they were raising, never forgetting anything 
of what she had been doing. 

Jeli, when he found himself at home, felt 
that he was more important than the pope. 


But on the eve of Santa Barbara he 
came home unexpectedly late, when all 
the lights were out in the street and the 
town clock was striking midnight He 
came in because the mare which the pa- 
drone had left out at pasture had been sud- 
denly taken sick, and he saw that it was a 
case that required the services of the farrier 
quickly, and he had wanted to bring him to 
town in spite of the rain that was falling 
like a torrent, and the muddy roads into 
which he sunk half up to his knees. 

Knock and call as loud as he might be- 
hind the door, he had to wait half an hour 
under the eaves, while the water ran out 
at his heels. At last his wife came to open 
for him, and began to scold worse than if 
it had been herself who had been obliged 
to wander across country in such a tempest. 

" Oh, what's the matter ? " she demanded. 
" How you frightened me coming at this 
time o' night ! Does it seem to you a 
proper Christian time to come? To-mor- 
row I shall be ill ! " 


" Go back to bed, I will start up a fire." 

" No, I '11 have to go and get some 

"I '11 go." 

" No, I say." 

When Mara returned with the wood in 
her arms Jeli said to her, "Why did you 
leave the door to the yard open? Was 
there not enough wood in the kitchen ? " 

" No, I went to get it under the shed." 

She let him kiss her, coldly, coldly, and 
turned her head in another direction. 

" His wife lets him wait at the door," 
said the neighbors, " when there is another 
bird in the nest." 

But Jeli knew nothing about the fact that 
his wife was untrue to him, nor did any one 
care to tell him, because it could surely be 
of no consequence, for he had taken the 
woman with a damaged reputation after 
massaro Neri's son had jilted her, because 
he knew of the story of Don Alfonso. But 
Jeli seemed to live happy and contented in 
the shame of it, and grew as fat as a pig; 


for the proverb has it " horns are lean but 
they make the house fat." At last, one 
time, the herdman's boy told it to him in 
his face, while they were scuffling about 
the pieces of cheese that had been stolen. 

" Now that Don Alfonso has taken your 
wife you consider yourself his brother-in- 
law, and you are proud enough to be a 
crowned king with those horns on your 

The factor and the keeper expected to 
see blood flow for those insulting words, 
but on the contrary Jeli stood stupefied, as 
if he had not heard, or as if it concerned 
him not, wearing the dull face of an ox 
whose horns really fitted him. 

Now that Easter was at hand the factor 
sent all the men of the estate to confession, 
with the hope that through the fear of God 
they would not do any more stealing. Jeli 
also went, and at the church entrance 
sought for the boy with whom he had ex- 
changed those hot words, and he threw his 
arms around his neck, saying, 


"The confessor has bade me pardon 
you ; but I am not angry with you for such 
gossip ; and if you will not steal any more 
of the cheese from me, I will not take any 
further notice of what you said to me in 

It was from that moment that they nick- 
named him Corno d'ore " Gold horns " 
and the nickname stuck to him and all his, 
even after he had washed his horns in blood. 

La Mara also went to confession and re- 
turned from the church all wrapped up in 
her mantellina, and with her eyes cast down, 
so that she seemed a genuine Santa Maria 
Maddelena. Jeli, who was silently waiting 
for her on the balcony, when he saw her 
coming in that way, seeming as if she had 
the Holy Presence in her heart, kept look- 
ing at her, pale, pale from his foot to his 
head as if he saw her for the first time, or 
as if his Mara had been changed for him, 
and he seemed hardly to dare .to lift his 
eyes to her while she was shaking the cloth 
and setting the table, calm and neat as ever. 


Then after long thinking he put the 
question to her : " Is it true that you keep 
company with Don Alfonso ? " 

Mara looked him full in the face with 
those black eyes of hers and made the sign 
of the cross. 

" Why do you want to make me commit 
a sin on this day ? " she demanded. 

" I did not believe it, because Don Al- 
fonso and I were always together when we 
were boys, and there never passed a day 
that he did not come to Tebidi when he 
was in the country there ; and then he is 
rich, and has bushels of money, and if he 
wanted women he might get married, nor 
would he lack anything, either clothes to 
wear, or bread to eat." 

But Mara was really angry, and she be- 
gan to scold so that the poor fellow did not 
dare lift his nose from his plate. 

At last, so that that gift of God which 
they were eating might not turn into poison, 
Mara changed the conversation, and asked 
him if he had thought of weeding that little 


plot of flax which they had sowed in the 
bean field. 

" Yes," replied Jeli, " and the flax will do 

" If that is so," said Mara, " this spring 
I will make you two new shirts which will 
keep you warm." 

In truth Jeli did not realize what 
"cuckold" meant, and he did not know 
what jealousy was. Every new thing found 
difficulty in getting into his head, and this 
became so great that, in making its way in, 
it played devilish work, especially when he 
saw his Mara before him so beautiful and 
white and neat, and how she had herself 
chosen him, and how he had thought about 
her so many years, and so many years, ever 
since he was a young boy, so that the day 
when they told him that she was going to 
marry some one else, he had had no heart 
to eat anything or to drink all day long. 

Then again he thought of Don Alfonso, 
who had been his companion so many 
times, and how he had always brought him 


strange feeling within his heart. Don Al- 
fonso had grown so tall that he no longer 
seemed the same person, and now he had 
a full beard, curly like his hair, and a velvet 
coat and a gold chain across his waistcoat. 
But he recognized Jeli, and patted him on 
the shoulder in salutation. He had come 
with the padrone of the estate and a num- 
ber of friends to have a jollification while 
the sheep-shearing was in progress, and 
Mara also came unexpectedly, under the 
pretext that she was pregnant, and longed 
for some fresh ricotto. 

It was a beautiful warm day in the pale 
fields, with the grain in flower and the 
long green rows of the vines ; the sheep 
were gamboling and bleating for delight, 
at feeling themselves freed from all that 
weight of wool, and in the kitchen, the 
women had made a great fire to cook all 
the provisions that the padrone had brought 
for the dinner. 

The gentlemen, while they were waiting, 
had sat down in the shade under the carob- 


trees, and were playing tambourines and 
bag-pipes, and dancing with the girls of 
the estate, as if they were all of the same 

Jeli, meantime, went on with his work 
shearing the sheep, and felt something 
within him, without knowing what, like 
a thorn, like a nail, like a pair of shears, 
working within him, slowly, slowly, like a 

The padrone had ordered that they 
should kill a couple of goats, and the year- 
ling sheep, and some chickens, and a tur- 
key cock. In fact, he was going to do 
things on a grand scale, and lavishly, so as 
to do honor to his friends ; and while all 
those creatures were squealing under the 
death-agony, and the goats were screaming 
under the knife, Jeli felt his knees tremble, 
and little by little, it seemed to him that 
the wool that he was shearing, and the 
grass in which the sheep were leaping, 
were stained with blood. 

" Don't go," he said to Mara, when Don 


Alfonso called her to come and dance with 
the rest. " Don't go, Mara." 

" Why not ? " 

" I don't want you to go. Do not go." 

" I hear them calling me." 

He uttered not another intelligible word 
while he stayed with the sheep that he was 
shearing. Mara shrugged her shoulders, 
and went to dance. She was blushing 
with delight, and her two black eyes shone 
like two stars, and she smiled so that there 
was a gleam of white teeth, and all the gold 
ornaments tossed and scintillated on her 
wrists arid on her bosom, so that she 
seemed like the Madonna herself. 

Jeli had arisen to his full height, with 
the long shears in his hand, and white in 
face, as white as once he had seen his 
father, the cowherd, when he was trembling 
with fever in front of the fire in the hovel. 

Suddenly, when he saw how Don Alfonso, 
with his curling beard and his velvet coat, 
and the gold chain at his waiscoat, took 
Mara by the hand to dance then only 


at that moment that he touched her did he 
fling himself on him and cut his throat 
with one stroke, as if he had been a goat. 

Later, while they were leading him off 
to the judge, bound, wholly unmanned, with- 
out daring to make the least resistance, 

" How," said he, " should I not have 
killed him. He robbed me of my Mara ! " 


(Cavalleria Rusticana.) 


(Cavalleria Rusticana.) 

TURIDDU MACCA, gnd Nunzia's 
son, after returning from the army, 
used every Sunday to strut like a peacock 
through the square in his bersegliere uni- 
form and red cap, looking like the fortune- 
teller as he sets up his stand with his cage 
of canaries. The girls on their way to 
Mass gave stolen glances at him from be- 
hind their mantellinas, and the urchins 
buzzed round him like flies. 

He had brought back with him, also, a 
pipe with the king on horseback carved so 
naturally that it seemed actually alive, and 
he scratched his matches on the seat of his 
trousers, lifting his leg as if he were going 
to give a kick. 

But in spite of all this, Lola, the daughter 
of massaro Angelo, had not shown herself 
either at Mass or on the balcony, for the 


reason that she was going to wed a man 
from Licodia, a carter who had four Sortino 
mules in his stable. 

At first, whenTuriddu heard about it, 
santo diavolone ! he threatened to disem- 
bowel him, threatened to kill him that 
fellow from Licodia ! But he did nothing 
of the sort; he contented himself with 
going under the fair one's window, and 
singing all the spiteful songs he knew. 

" Has gna Nunzia's Turiddu nothing else 
to do," asked the neighbors, "except spend- 
ing his nights singing like a lone sparrow ? " 

At length, he met Lola on her way back 
from the pilgrimage to the Madonna del 
Pericolo, and when she saw him, she turned 
neither red nor white, just as if it were 
none of her affair at all. 

"Oh, compare Turiddu, I was told that 
you returned the first of the month." 

" But I have been told of something quite 
different ! " replied the other. " Is it true 
that you are to marry compare Alfio, the 
carter ? " 


" Such is God's will," replied Lola, draw- 
ing the two ends of her handkerchief under 
her chin. 

"God's will in your case is done with 
a snap and a spring ; to suit yourself ! 
And it was God's will, was it, that I should 
return from so far to find this fine state of 
things, gna Lola ! " 

The poor fellow still tried to bluster, but 
his voice grew hoarse, and he followed the 
girl, tossing his head so that the tassel of 
his cap swung from side to side on his 
shoulders. To tell the truth, she felt really 
sorry to see him wearing such a long face, 
but she had not the heart to deceive him 
with fine speeches. 

"Listen, compare Turiddu," she said to 
him at last, "Let me join my friends. 
What would be said in town if I were seen 
with you ? " 

" You are right," replied Turiddu, " Now 
that you are going to marry compare Alfio, 
who has four mules in his stable, it is best 
not to let people's tongues wag about you. 


But my mother, poor soul, was obliged to 
sell our bay mule, and that little plot of 
vineyard on the highway while I was off in 
the army. The time ' when Berta spun,' is 
over and gone, and you no longer think of 
the time when we used to talk together 
from the window looking into the yard, and 
you gave me that handkerchief before I 
went away, and God knows how many 
tears I shed into it at going so far that 
even the name of our place is lost ! So 
good-by, gna Lola, Let's pretend it's 
rained and cleared off, and our friendship 
is ended."* 

Gna Lola married the carter, and on 
Sundays used to go out on the balcony 
with her hands crossed on her stomach, to 
show off all the heavy gold rings that her 
husband gave to her. Turiddu kept 'up his 
habit of going back and forth through the 
street with his pipe in his mouth, his hands 
in his pockets, and an air of unconcern, and 

* Facemu cuntu ca chioppi e scampau e la nostra ami- 
tizia finiu. 



ogling the girls; but it gnawed his heart 
that Lola's husband had so much money, 
and that she pretended not to see him when 
he passed. 

" I '11 get even with her, under her very 
eyes ; the vile beast," he muttered. 

Opposite compare Alfio lived massaro 
Cola, the vinedresser, who was as rich as 
a pig, and had one daughter at home. 
Turiddu said and did all he could to 
become massaro Cola's workman, and he 
began to frequent the house, and make 
sweet speeches to the girl. 

" Why don't you go and say sweet things 
to gna Lola ? " asked Santa. 

" Gna Lola is a fine lady. Gna Lola 
has married a crowned king now ! " 

" I don't deserve .crowned kings ! " 

"You are worth a hundred Lolas, and 
I know some one who would n't look at la 
gna Lola or her saint when you are by, for 
gna Lola is n't worthy to wear your shoes, 
no, she is n't ! " 

" The fox when he could n't get at the 


grapes said, * How beautiful you are, raci- 
nedda miaj my little grape ! " 

" Ohe ! hands off, compare Turiddu ! " 

" Are you afraid that I will eat you ? " 

" I 'm not afraid of you or of your 

" Eh ! your mother was from Licodia, 
we all know that ! You have quarrelsome 
blood. Uh ! How I could eat you with 
my eyes ! " 

" Eat me then with your eyes, for we 
should not have a crumb left, but mean- 
time help me up with this bundle." 

" I would lift up the whole house for you, 
yes, I would ! " 

She, so as not to blush, threw at him a 
stick of wood which was within reach, and 
by a miracle did n't hit him. 

" Let's have done, for chattering' never 
picked grapes." 

" If I were rich I should try to get a wife 
like you, gna Santa." 

" I shall never marry a crowned king like 
gna Lola, but I have my dowry as well as 


she, whenever the Lord shall send me any- 

" We know you are rich, we know it." 

" If you know it, say no more, for father 
is coming, and I should n't like to have him 
find me in the court-yard." 

The old father began to turn up his nose, 
but the girl pretended not to notice it, be- 
cause the tassel of the bersegliere's cap had 
set her heart to fluttering, and was con- 
stantly dancing before her eyes. When 
the babbo put Turiddu out of the house, his 
daughter opened the window for him, and 
stood chatting with him all the evening 
long, so that the whole neighborhood talked 
of nothing else. 

" I 'm madly in love with you," said Tu- 
riddu, " and I am losing my sleep and my 

" How absurd ! " 

" I wish I were Victor EmmanuePs son, 
so as to marry you." 

" How absurd ! " 

" By the Madonna, I would eat you like 
bread ! " 


" How absurd ! " 

" Ah ! on my honor ! " 

" Ah ! mamma mia /" 

Lola, who was listening every evening, 
hidden behind the vase of basil, and turning 
red and white, one day called Turiddu : 

" And so, compare Turiddu, old friends 
don't speak to each other any more ? " 

"Ma/" sighed the young man, "blessed 
is he who can speak to you." 

" If you have any desire to speak to me, 
you know where I live," replied Lola. 

Turiddu went to see her so frequently 
that Santa noticed it, and shut the window 
in his face. The neighbors looked at him 
with a smile or with a shake of the head 
when the bersegliere passed. Lola's hus- 
band was making a round of the fairs with 
his mules. 

" Sunday I am going to confession, for 
last night I dreamed of black grapes," said 

" Put it off, put it off " begged Turiddu. 

" No, Easter is coming, and my husband 


will want to know why I have n't been to 

"Ah," murmured massaro Cola's Santa, 
as she was waiting on her knees before the 
confessional for her turn, while Lola was 
making a clean breast of her sins. " On 
my soul, I will not send you to Rome for 
your punishment ! " . 

Compare Alfio came home with his 
mules ; he was loaded with money, and he 
brought to his wife for a present, a hand- 
some new dress for the holidays. 

" You are right to bring her gifts," said 
his neighbor Santa, " because while you are 
away your wife adorns your house for you." 

Compare Alfio was one of those carters 
who wear their hats over one ear, and when 
he heard his wife spoken of in such a way 
he changed color as if he had been knifed. 

" Santo diavolone ! " he exclaimed, " if 
you haven't seen aright, I will not leave 
you eyes to weep with, you or your whole 

" I am not used to weeping ! " replie4 


Santa, " I did not weep even when I saw 
with these eyes gna Nunzia's Turiddu going 
into your wife's house at night ! " 

" It is well," replied compare Alfio, 
" many thanks ! " 

Turiddu, now that the cat was at home, 
no longer went out on the street by day, 
and he whiled away the tedium at the inn 
with his friends ; and on Easter eve they 
had on the table a dish of sausages. 

When compare Alfio came in, Turiddu 
realized, merely by the way in which he 
fixed his eyes on him, that he had come to 
settle that affair, and he laid his fork on the 

" Have you any commands for me, com- 
pare Alfio ? " he asked. 

" No favors to ask, compare Turiddu ; 
it 's some time since I have seen you, and 
I wanted to speak concerning something 
you know about." 

Turiddu at first had offered him a glass, 
but compare Alfio refused it with a wave of 
his hand. Then Turiddu got up and said 
to him, 


" Here I am, compare Alfio." 

The carter threw his arms around his 

" If to-morrow morning you will come to 
the prickly pears of la Canziria, we can 
talk that matter over, compare" 

" Wait for me on the street at daybreak, 
and we will go together." 

With these words they exchanged the 
kiss of defiance. Turiddu bit the carter's 
ear, and thus made the solemn oath not to 
fail him. 

The friends had silently left the sau- 
sages, and accompanied Turiddu to his 
home. Gna Nunzia, poor creature, waited 
for him till late every evening. 

"Mamma," said Turiddu, " do you re- 
member when I went as a soldier, that you 
thought I should never come back any 
more? Give me a good kiss as you did 
then, for to-morrow morning I am going 
far away." 

Before daybreak he got his spring-knife, 
which he had hidden under the hay, when 


he had gone to serve his time in the army, 
and started for the prickly-pear trees of la 

" Oh, Gesummaria ! where are you going 
in such haste ! " cried Lola in great appre- 
hension, while her husband was getting 
ready to go out. 

"I am not going far," replied compare 
Alfio. " But it would be better for you if 
I never came back." 

Lola in her nightdress was praying at the 
foot of the bed, and pressing to her lips 
the rosary which Fra Bernardino had 
brought to her from the Holy places, and 
reciting all the Ave Marias that she could 

" Compare Alfio," began Turiddu, after he 
had gone a little distance by the side of 
his companion, who walked in silence with 
his cap down over his eyes, " as God is 
true I know that I have done wrong, and I 
should let myself be killed. But before I 
came out, I saw my old mother, who got 
up to see me off, under the pretence of 


tending the hens. Her heart had a pre- 
sentiment, and as the Lord is true, I will 
kill you like a dog, so that my poor old 
mother may not weep." 

"All right," replied compare Alfio, strip- 
ping off his waistcoat. "Then we will 
both of us hit hard." 

Both of them were skilful fencers. Tu- 
riddu was first struck, and was quick 
enough to receive it in the arm. When 
he returned it, he returned it well, and 
wounded the other in the groin. 

" Ah, compare Turiddu ! so you really 
intend to kill me, do you ? " 

" Yes, I gave you fair warning ; since I 
saw my old mother in the hen-yard, it 
seems to me I have her all the time before 
my eyes." 

"Keep them well open, those eyes of 
yours," cried compare Alfio, "for I am go- 
ing to give you back good measure." 

As he stood on guard, all doubled up, so 
as to keep his left hand on his wound, 
which pained him, and almost trailing his 


elbow on the ground, he swiftly picked up 
a handful of dust, and flung it into his ad- 
versary's eyes. 

"Ah!" screamed Turiddu, blinded, "I 
am dead." 

He tried to save himself, by making des- 
perate leaps backwards, but compare Alfio 
overtook him with another thrust in the 
stomach, and a third in the throat. 

" And that makes three ! that is for the 
house which you have adorned for me ! 
Now your mother will let the hens alone." 

Turiddu staggered a short distance 
among the prickly pears, and then fell like 
a stone. The blood foaming, gurgled in 
his throat, and he could not even cry, 
" Ah ! mamma mia /" 



SHE was tall and lean ; but she had a 
firm, full bust, and yet she was no 
longer young; her complexion was bru- 
nette, but pallid as if she had always suf- 
fered from malaria, and this pallor set forth 
two big eyes and fresh rosy lips that seemed 
to eat you. 

In the village she was called la Lupa 
the She- Wolf because she was never 
satisfied. Women made the sign of the 
cross when they saw her pass, always alone 
like a big ugly hound, with the vagabond 
and suspicious gait of a famished wolf ; she 
would bewitch their sons and their hus- 
bands in the twinkling of an eye with her 
red lips and she made them fall in love 
with her merely by looking at them out of 
those big Satanic eyes of hers, even if they 
were before Santa Agrippina's altar. 


Fortunately la Lupa never came to 
church at Easter or at Christmas, nor to 
hear Mass or to make confession. Padre 
Angiolino of Santa Maria di Gesii, a true 
servant of God, had lost his soul on her 

Maricchia, poor girl, pretty and clever 
she was, secretly wept because she was 
la Luprfs daughter, and no one had offered 
to marry her though she had nice clothes 
in her bureau, and her own little piece of 
land in the sun, like every other girl of the 

One time la Lupa fell in love with a 
handsome youth who had just served out 
his time in the army, and had come home 
and was helping to reap the notary's har- 
vest with her ; for surely it means to be in 
love when she felt the flesh burn under the 
fustian shift, and on looking at him to ex- 
perience the thirst that one has in hot June 
days down in the low-lands. 

But he went on with his work, undis- 
turbed, with his nose on his sheaves, and 

LA LUPA. 119 

he said to her, " Oh, what 's the matter, 

In the immense fields where the only 
sound was the rustle of the grasshoppers 
flying up, while the sun was pouring down 
his hottest beams perpendicularly, la Lupa 
was heaping up sheaf on sheaf, and pile on 
pile, without ever showing any signs of 
fatigue, without one moment straightening 
herself up, without once touching her lips 
to the water jug, so as to stick close to 
Nanni's heels as he reaped and reaped ; 
and now and again he would ask, 

" What do you want, gna Pin a ? " 

One evening she told him, it was while 
the men were sleeping in the threshing- 
floor, weary of the long day's work and the 
dogs were howling through the vast black 

" I want you ! you are as handsome as the 
sun and as sweet as honey ; I want you ! " 

" But I want your daughter I want the 
young calf," said Nanni, laughing at his 
own joke. 


La Lupa thrust her hands into the masses 
of her hair, scratching her temples, without 
saying a word, and went off and was not 
seen again in the harvest field. But the 
following October she saw Nanni again at 
the time when they were pressing the oil, 
because he worked near her house, and the 
rattle of the press kept her awake all night. 

" Take a bag of olives," she said to her 
daughter, " and come with me." 

Nanni was shoveling the olives into the 
hopper and shouting " Ohi " to the mule to 
keep it going. 

" Do you want my daughter Maricchia ? " 
demanded gna Pina. 

"What dowry will you give with your 
daughter Maricchia ? " replied Nanni. 

" She has her father's things, and be- 
sides I will give her my house; it 'will be 
enough for me if you '11 let me have a cor- 
ner in the kitchen to spread out a mattress 

" If that is so, we can talk about it at 
Christmas," said Nanni. Nanni was all 

LA LUPA. 121 

grease and dirt from the olives put to fer- 
menting, and Maricchia would not have 
him on any account ; but her mother 
grabbed her by the hair as they stood in 
front of the hearth and hissed through her 
set teeth, 

" If you don't take him, I '11 kill you." 

La Lupa looked ill, and the people re- 
marked : " When the devil was old the 
devil a monk would be." She no longer 
went wandering about ; she stood no more 
at her doorway looking out with those eyes 
as of one possessed. 

Her son-in-law, when she fixed those eyes 
on his face, always began to laugh, and 
would pull out his cloth talisman, with its 
effigy of the Madonna, to cross himself with. 

Maricchia stayed at home to nurse her 
children, and her mother went out to work in 
the fields with the men, just like a man, 
to weed, to dig, to guide the animals, to 
dress the vines, whether it were during the 
Greek-Levant winds * of January, or during 

* North-east. 


the August sirocco, when mules let their 
heads droop, and men sleep prone on their 
bellies under the shadow of the North wall. 

In that time between vespers and nones, 
when, according to the saying, no good 
woman is seen going about, gna Pina was 
the only living creature to be seen wander- 
ing across the campagna, over the fiery hot 
stones of the narrow streets, among the 
parched stubble of the wide, wide fields 
that stretched away into the burning haze 
toward cloudy Etna, where the sky hangs 
heavy on the horizon. 

" Wake up ! " said la Lupa to Nanni, who 
was asleep in the ditch next the dusty 
harvest-field, with his head on his arms. 
" Wake up, for I 've brought you some wine 
to cool your throat." 

Nanni opened his eyes, half awake, and 
saw her sitting up straight and pale before 
him, with her swelling breast, and her eyes 
as black as coal, and drew back waving his 

" No ! a good woman does not go about 

LA LUPA. 123 

between vespers and nones/' groaned 
Nanni, thrusting his face in amongst the 
dried weeds of the ditch as far as he could, 
and putting his ringers into his hair. " Go 
away ! Get you gone ! And don't you 
come to the threshing-floor any more." 

She turned and went away, la Lupa, 

knotting up her splendid tresses again, 

looking down steadily as she made her way 

among the hot stubble, with her eyes black 

as coal. 

But she did go back to the threshing- 
floor, and Nanni no longer reproached her ; 
and when she failed to come, in that hour 
between vespers and nones, he went, and 
with perspiration on his brow, waited for 
her at the top of the white deserted foot- 
path, but afterwards he would thrust his 
hands through his hair, and every time he 
would say, " Go away ! Go away ! Don't 
come to the threshing-floor again." 

Maricchia wept night and day, and she 
looked into her mother's face with eyes 
blazing with tears and jealousy, like a lu- 


pachiotta, a young wolf herself, every time 
that she saw her coming back from the 
fields, silent and pale. 

"Vile! scellerata!" she would say, "Vile 

" Hold your tongue ! " 

"Thief! thief!" 

" Hold your tongue ! " 

" I '11 go to the brigadiere f" * 

And she actually went with her infants 
in her arms, without a sign of fear, and 
without shedding a tear, like a crazy 
woman, because now she passionately 
loved that husband whom she had been 
forced to marry, greasy and dirty as he 
was from the olives set to fermenting. 

The brigadiere summoned Nanni, and 
threatened him with the galleys and the 
gallows. Nanni began to weep, and pull 
his hair ; he denied nothing, did not try to 
justify himself." 

"The temptation was too much," said 

* Brigadiere is the station or the Commandant of the 
detachment of the Carabaneers in a small town. 

LA LUPA. 125 

he, "'twas the temptation of hell." He 
flung himself at the brigadiere 's feet, beg- 
ging him to send him to the galleys. 

" For mercy's sake, Signer brigadiere, take 
me out of this hell ! Have me shot ! Send 
me to prison ! Don't let me see her ever 
again ! never again ! " 

" No," replied la Lupa, to the briga- 
dier^ s question. " I kept a corner of the 
kitchen to sleep in when I gave him my 
house as my daughter's dowry. The house 
is mine. I do not intend to go away." 

Shortly after, Nanni was kicked in the 
chest by a mule, and was like to die ; but the 
priest refused to bring him the Holy Unction 
unless la Lupa was out of the house. 

La Lupa went away, and her son-in-law 
was then permitted to pass away like a 
good Christian ; he confessed and partook 
of the Sacrament with such signs of peni- 
tence and contrition that all the neighbors 
and inquisitive visitors wept as they sur- 
rounded the dying man's bed. 

And it would have been better for him 


if he had died then and there, before the 
devil had a chance to return to tempt him, 
and take possession of him, mind and body, 
when he got well again. 

"Let me be ! " he said to la Lupa\ "for 
mercy's sake, leave me in peace ! I have 
seen death with my own eyes ! Poor 
Maricchia is in despair. Now the whole 
region knows about it! If I don't see 
you, it 's better for you and better for me." 

And he would rather have put his eyes 
out, than see la Lupa's, for when hers were 
fastened on him, they made him lose soul 
and body. He did not know what to do to 
overcome the enchantment. He paid for 
Masses to be sung for the souls in Purga- 
tory, and he went for aid to the priest and 
the brigadiere. At Easter he went to con- 
fession, and as a penance, publicly stood 
on the flint stones of the holy ground in 
front of the church, putting out six hand- 
breadths of tongue, and then, when la Lupa 
returned to tempt him, 

" See here," said he, " don't you come on 

LA LUPA. 127 

the threshing-floor again, because if you 
do come to seek me again, as sure as God 
exists, I '11 kill you." 

"All right, kill me!" replied la Lupa. 
" It makes no difference to me ; but I 
can not live without you." 

When he saw her afar off coming 
through the green corn field, he left off 
pruning the vines, and went and got his 
axe from the elm. 

La Lupa saw him coming to meet her, 
with his face pale and his eyes rolling 
wildly, with the axe shining in the sun ; but 
she did not hesitate an instant, did not 
look away. She went straight forward 
with her hands full of bunches of red pop- 
pies, and devouring him with those black 
eyes of hers. 

" Ah ! a curse on your soul ! " stammered 





THEY had bought it at the Fair of 
Buccheri when it was still a young 
colt, and if it caught sight of a she ass, it 
would run to it and try to nurse ; for this 
reason, it had got blows and kicks on its 
rump, and it was all in vain for them to 
shout " arricca " get up to it. 

Compare Neli, when he saw how lively 
and obstinate it was, and how it licked its 
nostrils when the blows fell, and how it 
kept wagging its ears, said, 

" That 's the one for me." 

And he went straight up to the pro- 
prietor, with his hand in his pocket on 
thirty-five lire. 

"The colt is handsome," said the pro- 
prietor, " and is worth more than thirty-five 
lire. No matter if it has a white and black 


skin like a magpie. There, I '11 show you 
its mother; we keep her over yonder in 
that little grove, because the colt's all the 
time wanting to nurse. You shall see 
what a pretty dark hide it's got! Why, 
she does more work for me than a mule 
would, and has given me more colts than 
she has hairs on her back. My con- 
science ! I don't know where this colt got 
its magpie coat. But it is well built, I tell 
you. Even men aren't judged by their 
moustaches. Look, what a chest ! and 
what thick, solid legs ! See how it holds 
its ears. An ass that holds its ears up like 
that can be put in a cart or to a plow as 
you please, and it will carry four bushels of 
corn better than a mule, I swear it will 
by all the saints. Just feel that tail 
strong enough to hold up you and all your 
kith and kin." 

Compare Neli knew that as well as the 
other, but he wasn't dunce enough to say 
so, and he stood with his hand in his 
pocket, shrugging his shoulders and mak- 


ing grimaces while the proprietor of the 
colt made it turn round before them. 

" Huh ! " grunted compare Neli, " with a 
skin like that, it looks like Saint Joseph's 
ass. Animals of that color are always 
vigliacche* and when you ride them about, 
people laugh in your face. Am I going to 
be made a laughing stock for a Saint 
Joseph's ass ? " 

It was the padrone's turn to turn his 
back on him in a passion, screaming that 
some people didn't know a good animal 
when they saw one, and if they had n't any 
money to buy with, they 'd better not come 
to the fair, and waste good Christian's 
time on a saint's day, too. 

Compare Neli let him fume away, and he 
went off with his brother, who pulled the 
sleeve of his jacket, and whispered in his 
ear, that if he was going to throw away his 
money on that good-for-nothing animal he 
would deserve to be kicked. 

While the padrone pretended to be shel- 

* Cowardly, ridiculous, vile. 


ling some young beans, holding the halter 
between his legs, compare Neli, not really 
losing sight of the Saint Joseph's ass, went 
off on a tour of inspection among the mules 
and horses, now and again stopping to 
criticise or even haggle over the price of 
this one or of that among the better ani- 
mals ; but he did not open his hand, which 
still clasped safely in his pocket the thirty- 
five lire as if it were going to buy half the 
fair. But his brother kept telling him in a 
whisper, pointing to the ass, which they 
called Saint Joseph's, 

" That J s the one for us." 

The ass's mistress, every once in a while, 
came over to her husband to see how busi- 
ness was progressing, and when she saw 
him sitting with the halter in his hand, she 

" Is n't the Madonna going to send a 
purchaser for the foal, to-day ? " 

And the husband would always reply in 
these terms, 

" None yet ! One 's been here bargain- 


ing, and he liked it. But he objected to 
the price, and went off again with the 
money in his pocket. There he is, over 
yonder with the white cap, beyond that 
flock of sheep. He hasn't bought any- 
thing yet; that means, he'll be back 

The woman was about to squat down on 
a couple of stones near her foal, to see 
whether it would be sold or not. But her 
husband said to her, 

"Off with you. If they see you are 
waiting, they won't finish the bargain." 

Meantime the foal was nosing about 
between the legs of several she-asses that 
were passing by. It wanted to nurse, for 
it was half starved. It was just opening 
its mouth to bray when the padrone re- 
duced it to silence by a shower of blows 
because they had not wanted it. 

"It's still there," said compare Neli in 
his brother's ear, pretending to turn round 
and look for something. " If we wait till 
the Ave Maria, we may be able to get it for 


five lire cheaper than the price that we 

The May sunshine was warm so that 
gradually amid all the noise and bustle of 
the fair a great silence followed throughout 
the whole field, as if no one were there: 
then it was that the mistress of the young 
ass came to her husband again and said : 

" I would n't hold out for five lire more 
or less, for to-night we have not enough to 
buy our supper and you know well that the 
foal will eat his head off in a month if he 
remains on our hands." 

" If you don't go off," replied her hus- 
band, " I'll give you a kick that you'll 

Thus passed the hours at the fair ; but 
of all those who passed in front of the 
Saint Joseph's ass not one stopped to look 
at it, and that, too, though the padrone had 
chosen the most humble place near the 
animals of small value, so that with its 
magpie skin it might not be compared 


with the beautiful bay mules and the sleek 
horses ! Some one like compare Neli was 
wanted to buy his Saint Joseph's ass, at 
the sight of which every one at the fair 
was laughing. 

The colt, after such a long waiting in 
the sun, let his head and ears hang down ; 
his padrone went and squatted on the 
stones, with his hands also hanging be- 
tween his knees and the halter in his 
hands, gazing at the long shadows that 
began to be cast across the plain from 
the sun, which was preparing to set, and 
at the legs of all those animals that had 
not as yet found purchasers. 

Just then compare Neli and his brother, 
and a friend of theirs whom they had 
picked up for the occasion, came saunter- 
ing by, with their noses in the air ; but the 
owner of the young ass turned his head 
aside so as not to seem to be on the look 
out for them. And compare Neli's friend, 
squinting up his eyes, remarked as if the 
idea had just occurred to him : 


" O, see that Saint Joseph's ass ! Why 
don't you buy that one, compare Neli ? " 

" I bargained it this morning ; but he 
asks too much for it. Besides, I should be 
the laughing stock of the town if I were 
seen with that black and white beast. 
You see no one has had a thought of 
buying it so far." 

"That's so, but the color makes no 
difference in the use that you make of 

And turning to the padrone he asked, 

" How much must we pay for that Saint 
Joseph's ass of yours ? " 

The mistress of the Saint Joseph's ass, 
seeing that the business was on once more, 
had quietly approached, with her hands 
clasped under her apron. 

" Don't speak to me of it," cried compare 
Neli making off across the field. " Don't 
speak of it again, I don't want to hear a 

" If you don't want it, let it be," replied 
the padrone. "If he does not take it, 


some one else will. ' A sad wretch is he 
who has nothing left to sell after the fair.' " 

"And I will be heard, santo diavolone!" 
screamed the friend. "Can't I be per- 
mitted to have my say ? " 

And he ran and caught compare Neli by 
the jacket, then he came back and whis- 
pered something in the padrone's ear as the 
man was about to return home with his 
young ass, and he flung his arm round his 
neck, murmuring, 

" Look here ! five lire more or less, and 
if you don't sell it to-day you won't find 
another blunderhead like my compare to 
buy a beast, which between you and me, 
is n't worth a cigar ! " 

He also embraced the young ass's mis- 
tress, whispered in her ear to win her to his 
way of thinking. But she shrugged her 
shoulders and replied with stern face, 

" 'T is my husband's business : I don't 
mix myself in it. But if he lets it go for 
less than forty lire he is a dunce, and that 's 
what I say. It cost us more than that." 


" This morning I was crazy when I of- 
fered him thirty-five lire" resumed compare 
Neli. " Has he found any other purchaser 
even at that price ? I reckon not. In the 
whole fair there aren't more than four 
scabby rams and the Saint Joseph's ass. 
I'll give thirty lire if he '11 take it." 

"Take it," softly whispered the young 
ass's mistress to her husband, and the tears 
came into her eyes. "We haven't made 
enough this evening to buy our supper, and 
Turiddu has the fever again ; he '11 have to 
have quinine." 

" Santo diavolone ! " screamed her hus- 
band, " if you don't get away from here I '11 
give you a taste of this halter." 

" Thirty-two and a half, there now ! " 
cried the friend at last, giving him a power- 
ful shake to the collar. 

" Neither you nor I ! This time my ad- 
vice ought to hold, by all the saints in para- 
dise ! and I don't even ask for a glass of 
wine. Don't you see the sun is set ? What 
is the use of you both holding out any 


And he snatched the halter from the pa- 
drone's hand, while, at the same time, compare 
Neli with an oath took out of his pocket his 
closed fist clutching the thirty-five lire, and 
gave them to the man without looking at 
them as if they took his liver with them. 
The friend retired to one side with the mis- 
tress of the young ass to count over the 
money on a rock, while the padrone went 
off to another part of the fair like a colt, 
cursing and beating himself with his fists. 

But when he was at last rejoined by his 
wife, who was carefully recounting the 
money in her handkerchief, he demanded, 

" Have you got it ? " 

" Yes, the whole of it ; praised be San 
Gaetano ! * Now I'll go to the apothe- 

" I got the best of them ! I'd have let 
them have the beast for twenty lire ; asses 
of that color are vigliacchi vile." 

And compare Neli, as he got behind th 
ass to drive it off, said, 

* The especial saint of the Provident. 


" As God exists I robbed him of the colt ! 
The color makes no difference. See what 
solid legs, compare! That beast is worth 
forty lire with one's eyes shut." 

"If it had not been for me," returned 
the friend, " you would not have struck the 
bargain. Here are still two lire and a half 
of your money. And if you don't object 
we will go and have a drink to the health 
of the ass ! 

Now the colt needed to have its health 
in order to repay the thirty-two and a half 
lire which had been paid for it, and the 
straw which it ate. Meanwhile it was con- 
tented to frisk behind compare Neli, trying 
to bite his new padrone's coat tails, and mak- 
ing no ado because it was leaving forever 
the stall where it had been sheltered by its 
mother's side, free to rub its nose on the 
edge of the manger, or to gambol and cut 
up capers, butting with the ram or going to 
rub the pig's back in its pen. 

And the padrone, who was still again 
counting over the money in her handker- 


chief before the apothecary's counter, had 
on her side no regrets, although she had 
assisted at the birth of the foal with its 
black and white skin, as shiny as silk, and 
which could not at first stand up on its 
legs, but lay in the warm sun in the court- 
yard while all the grass which had made it 
grow so big and strong had passed through 
her hands ! 

The only person who missed the foal was 
its mother, who stretched out her neck 
toward the entrance of the stall and brayed. 
But when her udder was no longer pain- 
fully distended with the milk, she also for- 
got about the foal. 

" Now you will see," said compare Neli, 
"that this ass will carry four bushels of 
corn better than a mule, for me." 

And at harvest time he was set to 

At the threshing, the colt, fastened by 
the neck, in a row with other animals 
worn out mules, decrepit horses, paced 
over the sheaves, from morning till night, 


so that when it was brought back to the 
stable, he was so tired that he had no 
desire to bite at the heap of straw where 
they put him up in the shade when the 
wind blew, while the peasants did their 
winnowing with shouts of " Viva Maria!" 

Then he let his nose hang down and 
drooped his pendent ears, like a full-fledged 
ass with eyes dulled, as if he were weary of 
gazing across over that vast plain, smoking 
here and there with the dust of the thresh- 
ing-floors, and he seemed made for nothing 
else than to die of thirst and enforced 
treading on sheaves. 

At eventide, it was sent to the village 
with the saddle-bags filled full, and the 
padrone's boy followed, to prick it in the 
withers, along the hedges lining the road, 
that seemed alive with the chattering of 
the tomtits, and the odor of the catnip and 
rosemary ; and the ass would gladly have 
snatched a mouthful, if they had not 
always kept it on the go, until at last, the 
blood ran to its legs and they had to take 


it to the farrier; but this did not trouble 
\hzpadrone, because the harvest was good, 
and the young ass had earned its cost, 
his thirty-two lire and a half. The padrone 

" Now, the work has worn him out, but 
if I could sell him for twenty lire, I should 
still have made a good thing out of him." 

The only person who had a fondness for 
the young ass was the boy who made it 
trot over the road on the way from the 
threshing-floor. And he felt badly when 
the farrier burnt its legs with red-hot 
irons, so that the young ass squirmed and 
flung its tail into the air, and pricked up 
its ears, and when it ran across the field of 
the fair, and it tried to break loose from the 
twisted rope which they fastened to its lip, 
and it rolled its eyes with the agony, as if 
it were undergoing torture, when the far- 
rier's apprentice came to change the hot 
irons, red as fire, and the skin smoked and 
sizzled, like fish in a frying-pan. But 
compare Neli cried to his boy, 


" You beast ! what are you weeping 
for ? Now that he is played out, and 
since the harvest has been a good one, 
we'll sell him and buy a mule, and that 
will be better." 

Boys do not understand some things, 
and after the young ass was sold to mas- 
saro Cirino, of Licodiana, compare Neli's 
son used to visit it in the stall, and to 
caress its face and neck, and the ass would 
turn round its head, and snuff as if it had 
become attached to him, while, as a general 
thing, asses are made to be tied wherever 
their padrone may see fit to tie them, and 
change their lot as they change their stall. 

Massaro Cirino, of Licodiana, had paid 
a very small price for the Saint Joseph's 
ass, because it still bore the scars on its 
pastern, and compare Neli's wife, when she 
saw the poor beast go by with its new 
master, said, 

"That beast was our mascot. That 
black and white skin brought joy to the 
threshing-floor, and now the profits are 


going from bad to worse, for we have had 
to sell the mule, too." 

Massaro Cirino had yoked the ass to the 
plow, together with an old mare which 
matched it like a stone in a ring, and drew 
her brave furrow all day long, for miles and 
miles, from the time the lark began to sing 
in the clear morning sky, till, with quick 
and hasty flights, and melancholy chirping, 
the robin red-breasts ran to hide behind 
the naked bushes, trembling with cold 
under the mist that rose like a sea. 

Only, as the ass was smaller than the 
mare, a cushion of hay was put over the 
saddle under the yoke, and it had hard 
work to break up the frozen clods, by dint 
of chafed shoulders. 

"It'll help spare the mare, who's get- 
ting old," said massaro Cirino. " It's got a 
heart as broad and big as the Plain of 
Catania, that Saint Joseph's ass has ! and 
you would not think it ! " 

And he added, turning to his wife, who 


had followed him, wrapped in a mantellina, 
penuriously scattering the seed, 

" If anything should happen to it 
Heaven foref end we are ruined with the 
prospects before us." 

The woman looked forward to the pros- 
pects of crops in the rocky, desolate, little 
field, with its white and cracked soil, so 
long had it been since the rain fell, and all 
the water it got came in the form of mist 
and fog, of the kind that spoils the seed, 
and when it was time to dig up the ground, 
it was so yellow and hard, that you would 
call it the very beard of the devil, as if it 
had been burnt with sulphur matches ! 

" In spite of the crop which I put in," 
mourned massaro Cirino, pulling off his 
doublet, " why, that ass has worked himself 
to death like a stupid mule. That ass is 
under a curse ! " 

His wife had a lump in her throat at the 
sight of the parched field, and she replied 
with tears rolling from her eyes, 

" The ass had nothing to do with the fail- 


ure. It brought a good crop to compare 
Neli. But we are unfortunate." 

So the Saint Joseph's ass changed mas- 
ters once more, when massaro Cirino re- 
turned from the field with the sickle over 
his shoulder, it being useless even to try to 
reap that year, although the images of the 
saints had been stuck into bamboo sticks 
all over the ground for protection, and two 
tarl * had been paid to the priest for his 

" It 's the devil that we want rather than 
the saints," said massaro Cirino, irrever- 
ently, when he saw all those stalks standing 
up like crests, which even the ass refused to 
touch, and he spat up towards that tur- 
quoise-colored sky, so relentlessly cloudless. 

It 'was then that compare Luciano, the 
carter, meeting massaro Cirino, as he was 
driving back the ass with empty saddle- 
bags, asked, 

"What '11 you take for that Saint Jo- 
seph's ass ? " 

* A tarl is one-thirtieth of an onza. 


" Anything you '11 give me ! Cursed be 
he and the saint who made him ! " replied 
massaro Cirino. " Now we have n't any 
more bread to eat, or fodder to give the 

" I '11 give you fifteen lire for it, seeing 
that you are ruined, but the ass is n't worth 
so much, for it won't last out more than 
six months ! See how thin it is ! " 

" You might have got more than that," 
grumbled massaro Cirino's wife, after the 
bargain was settled. Compare Luciano's 
mule 's dead, and he had n't money enough 
to buy another. Now if he had n't bought 
our Saint Joseph's ass, he would n't have 
known what to do with his cart and har- 
nesses ; you '11 see that ass '11 be a fortune 
to him." 

The ass was set to work drawing the 
cart, but the shafts of it were much too 
high for it, and brought all the weight on 
its shoulders, so that it would not have 
survived even six months; for it went 
limping along over the hilly roads under 


compare Luciano's cruel cudgelling, who 
tried to put a little spirit into it ; and when 
it went down hill, the case was even worse, 
for then the whole load rested on it, and 
pushed against it so hard that it had to 
make its back like an arch to hold the cart 
back, and push with those poor scarred 
legs, and people would laugh to see it, and 
when it fell it would have taken all the 
angels of Paradise to get it to its feet 
again. But compare Luciano knew that he 
carried three quintals of merchandise more 
than a mule, and the load would bring him 
five tart a quintal. 

" Every day that Saint Joseph's ass 
lives," said he, " I make fifteen tari, and 
his keep costs me less than a mule's 

Every time the people who happened 
to be sauntering along behind the cart saw 
the poor beast, which could hardly put one 
leg in front of the other, arching its spine 
and panting heavily, with discouragement 
clouding its eye, they would say, 


" Block the wheel with a rock, and let 
that poor creature have a chance to get its 

But compare Luciano would reply, 
" If I let him do as he pleases, I should 
not make my fifteen tart a day. His hide 's 
got to pay for mine. When he can't do 
any more work I shall sell him to the lime 
dealer; for the beast is good enough for 
his work. I tell you there's no truth at 
all in the idea that St. Joseph's asses are 
vigliacchi. Besides, I got this one of 
massaro Cirino for a piece of bread, after 
he was 'poverished." 

In this way the Saint Joseph's ass 
passed into the hands of the lime- dealer, 
who already possessed a score or more of 
asses all lean and moribund, which .carried 
his sacks of plaster, and picked up a 
wretched living by means of the mouth- 
fuls of weeds that they could snatch as 
they went along the road. 

The lime-dealer objected to the Saint 


Joseph's ass because it was covered with 
worse scars than his other beasts, with its 
legs seared by the hot iron, and the skin 
on its chest worn off by the poitrel, and 
the withers raw by the chafing of the plow, 
and the knees barked by constant falls, 
and then that pelt of black and white 
seemed to him so inharmonious among his 
other brown-skinned animals. 

"That makes no difference," replied 
compare Luciano. "Besides, it will serve 
to distinguish your asses at a distance." 

But he deducted two tart from the seven 
lire that he had asked, so as to bring the 
business to a settlement. 

Now the Saint Joseph's ass would not 
have been recognized even by thzpadrona 
who had been present when it was born, 
so greatly had it changed as it stumbled 
along with its nose to the ground and its 
ears curled over like an umbrella under 
the lime-dealer's heavy sacks, twitching its 
flanks under the blows of the youth who 
drove the caravan. But then the padrona 


herself was changed at that time, what with 
the bad harvests they had gathered and 
the hunger from which she had suffered, 
and the fevers which they had all con- 
tracted in the low lands, she and her 
husband and her Turiddu, while they had 
no money to buy any more quinine at the 
apothecary's and at the same time they had 
no more asses even of the Saint Joseph 
kind to sell for the small price of thirty- 
five lire I 

In winter, when there was little work 
and the wood for burning the lime was 
scarce, and to be had only at a distance, 
and the frozen paths had n't a leaf on their 
hedges or a mouthful of stubble along by 
the icy gutters, life was still harder for 
those poor brutes, and the padrone knew 
that in winter not half as much was eaten ; 
so he used to buy a good stock of provi- 
sions in the spring. 

At night the drove remained in the open 
air near the lime-burners, and the brutes 
clustered together for protection against 


the cold. But those stars shining like 
swords through and through them in spite 
of their thick hides, and all those ulcer- 
eaten beasts shook and trembled in the 
cold as if they were human beings. 

But then there are many Christians who 
are not better off, not having even such a 
ragged coat as that wrapt up in which the 
herd-boy slept before the furnace. 

Near by there lived a poor widow in a 
dilapidated hut, more tumble-down by far 
than the lime-furnace, and through its roof 
the stars penetrated like swords, as if it 
were no roof at all, and the wind fluttered 
the wretched rags of her covering. At 
first she took in washing, but that was 
meagre pay, for the people thereabouts do 
their own washing, when they wash at all, 
and now that her little boy had grown she 
went about peddling wood in the village. 
No one had known her husband and no 
one knew where she got the wood that she 
sold; that was known only by her son, 
who went about picking it up here and 


there at the risk of getting shot by the 

" If you only had an ass ! " the lime- 
dealer had said to her, hoping that he 
might dispose of that Saint Joseph's ass, 
which was good for nothing more, " then 
you could take down to the village much 
bigger fagots, now that your son is getting 
to be grown up." 

The poor woman had a few lire in the 
knot of her handkerchief, and she let her- 
self be persuaded into it by the lime- 
burner, because it is said that " old things 
go to destruction in the house of a fool." 

One thing at least was true : the poor 
Saint Joseph's ass had a more endurable 
existence at last, because the widow re- 
garded it as a treasure by reason of the 
few soldi that it had cost her, and she 
went out nights in search of straw and hay 
for ft, and she kept it in her hut next her 
own bed because its vital heat was as good 
as a fire, and in this way one hand washed 
the other, as the proverb has it. 


The woman driving the ass loaded with 
a mountain of wood so that its ears could 
not be seen, built air-castles as she went, 
and. her son ravaged the hedges, and risked 
his life in the borders of the woodlands to 
gather together his load, while both mother 
and son had an idea that they were going 
to become rich by that business, until, 
finally, the baron's campiere caught the boy 
breaking off branches, and gave him a ter- 
rible beating. 

The doctor, for the price of curing the 
lad, devoured all the spare soldi knotted in 
the handkerchief, the store of wood, and 
whatever else vendible she had, and that 
was not much in all conscience, so that 
the widow one night when her son was in 
a raging fever, with his face turned to the 
wall, and there was not a mouthful of bread 
in the house, went out, raging and talking 
to herself, as if she, too, had the fever, and 
she went to break off an almond-tree near 
by in such a way that it would not appear 
how it happened, and at dawn she loaded 


it on the ass to go and sell it. But the ass 
on the way up stumbled under the weight, 
and went down on its knees, just as Saint 
Joseph's ass knelt before the infant Jesus, 
and would not get up again. 

" Souls of the dead ! " stammered the 
woman, " won't you carry this load of wood 
for me." 

And the passers-by pulled the ass's tail, 
and they bit its ears, so as to make it get 

" Don't you see it 's dying ? " at last re- 
marked a carter, and so at least the others 
let it alone, because the ass had the eye of 
a dead fish, a cold nose, and a shudder ran 
over its skin. 

The woman, meantime, thought of her 
son, who was delirious with fever, and a 
flushed face, and cried, 

" Now what shall we do, what shall 
we do?" 

" If you will sell it, and all the wood on 
its back for five tari, I '11 give that much," 
said the carter who had an empty cart ; and 



as the woman looked at it with squinting 
eyes, he added, " I '11 only take the wood, 
for the ass is n't worth that " 

And he gave a kick to the carcass, which 
sounded like a burst drum. 



THE little girl appeared at the door, 
twisting the corner of her apron in 
her fingers, and said, 

"Here I am!" 

Then, when no one paid any attention to 
her, she looked shyly first at one and then 
at another of the women who were knead- 
ing dough, and spoke again, 

"They told me, 'Go to comare Si- 
dora.' " 

"Come here, come here," cried comare 
Sidora, red as a tomato, as she stood in the 
back part of the bake-shop. "Wait a 
moment, and I '11 make you a nice cake." 

"It means they are bringing comare 
Nunzia the Viaticum ; they Ve sent the 
little girl away," observed the woman from 

One of the women engaged in kneading 


the dough, turned her head, with her hands 
still at work in the trough, her arms bare 
to the elbow, and asked the little girl, 

" How is your step-mother ? " 

The child, not knowing the woman, 
looked at her with frightened eyes, and 
hanging her head, and nervously working 
at the ends of her apron, said, in a low 
voice, between her set teeth, 

" She >s in bed." 

"Don't you see 'tis the Sacrament," 
replied la Licodiana. " Now the neigh- 
bors have begun to scream at the door." 

" As soon as I finish kneading this 
dough," said comare Sidora, " I '11 run over 
a moment to see if they have need of any- 
thing. Compare Meno loses his right hand 
when this second wife of his dies." 

" Some men have no luck with their 
wives, just as some are unfortunate with 
their mules. No sooner do they get 'em 
than they lose 'em. There 's comare An- 

"Yesterday evening," observed la Lico- 


diana, " I saw compare Meno at his door ; 
he had come back from the vineyard before 
the Ave Marie, and was blowing his nose 
on his handkerchief." 

" But," suggested the woman who was 
kneading the dough, " he is a master hand 
at killing off his wives. In less than three 
years already two of curdtolo * Nino's 
daughters have been eaten up, one after 
the other ! Wait a little and you '11 see 
the third go the same way, and all curdtolo 
Nino's things wasted." 

" Is this little girl comare Nunzia's 
daughter, or his first wife's ? " 

" She 's his first wife's daughter. But this 
one has been just as kind to her as though 
she had been her own mamma, because 
the little orphan was her niece, you know." 

The child, hearing them speaking of 
herself, began to weep silently in a cor- 
ner, thus relieving her bursting heart, 
which she had till then kept under control, 
by playing with her apron. 

* The manager of a farm, not a tenant. 


" Come here, come here," pursued co- 
mare Sidora. " The nice cake 's ail ready. 
There, there ! Don't cry ; for your mam- 
ma 's in Paradise." 

The little girl then dried her eyes with her 
doubled fists, because she saw that comare 
Sidora was preparing to open the oven. 

" Poor comare Nunzia ! " said a neigh- 
bor, appearing at the door. " The grave- 
diggers are on their way. They just passed 
by here." 

" Heaven protect me ! as I am under 
Mary's grace ! " * exclaimed the women, 
crossing themselves. 

Comare Sidora took the cake out of the 
oven, brushed off the ashes, and handed it, 
smoking hot, to the little girl, who took it 
in her apron and walked away slowly, 
slowly, blowing on it as she went. - 

" Where are you going ? " cried comare 
Sidora. " Stay here ! There 's a black- 
faced ba-bau at your house who carries 
folks off." 

* " Lontano sia! che sonjiglia di Maria! " 


The little orphan listened gravely, with 
wide-opened eyes. Then she replied in 
the same obstinate drawl, 

" I am going to carry it to my mamma." 

"Your mamma is dead; stay here," said 
one of the neighbors. " Eat your cake." 

Then the little girl squatted down on the 
door-step, the image of sadness, holding 
her cake in her hand without offering to 
eat it. 

Then suddenly seeing " il babbo " com- 
ing, she jumped up joyously and ran to 
meet him. 

Compare Meno entered without saying 
a word, and sat down in a corner, with his 
hands dangling between his knees, with a 
long face, and his lips as white as paper ; 
for since the day before, he had not put a 
morsel of food into his mouth because of 
his grief. He looked at the women as if to 

"Poveretto me!" 

Seeing the black handkerchief around 
his neck, the women, with their hands still 


pasted with dough, made a circle round 
him and condoled with him in chorus. 

"Don't speak of it to me, comare 
Sidora," he exclaimed, shaking his head, 
and heaving up his great shoulders. 
" This is a thorn that will never be pulled 
out of my heart. That woman was a real 
saint ! I did not deserve her, saving your 
presence. Only day before yesterday, 
when she was so sick, she got up to tend 
to the weaning colt, and she would not let 
me call in the doctor, or buy any medi- 
cine, either so as to not waste any 
money. I sha'n't find another wife like 
her. No I sha'n't, I tell you. Let me 
weep I 've good reason to." 

And he began to shake his head and 
to heave his shoulders as if his misfortune 
were a burden not to be borne. 

" As to getting another wife," said la 
Licodiana, to encourage him, " all you Ve 
got to do is to look for one." 

" No ! no ! " asseverated compare Meno, 
with his head hung low, like a mule's. 


" Such another wife is not to be had. 
This time I shall remain a widower. I 
tell you I shall." 

Comare Sidora interrupted him, 
" Don't say foolish things like that. You 
must get another wife, if only for the sake 
of this little orphan girl ; for otherwise, who 
will look out for her when you are out 
working? You wouldn't let her run in 
the streets, would you ? " 

" Then find me another wife like my last 
one ! She would not wash herself, for fear 
of soiling the water; and at home, she 
served me better than a farm-hand affec- 
tionate and faithful. Why, she would not 
take even a handful of beans from the rack, 
or ever open her mouth to ask for any- 
thing. And beside, a fine dowry things 
as good as gold. And I Ve got to give 
it all back because she had no children. 
At least, so the sacristan says, when he 
came with the Holy Water. And how 
kind she was to the little girl who reminded 
her of her poor sister. Any other woman, 


except an aunt, would have cast an evil 
eye on her, the poor little orphan ! 

" If you asked curdtolo Nino for his third 
daughter, it would make things all right, 
both for the orphan and for the dowry," 
suggested la Licodiana. 

"That's what I say. But don't speak 
of it to me, for now my mouth is bitter as 

"I wouldn't talk about it now," said 
comare Sidora. " Eat a bit of something, 
compare Meno. You are all tired out." 

" No ! no ! " returned compare Meno sev- 
eral times. " Don't speak to me of eating, 
for I have a lump in my throat." 

Comare Sidora placed before him on a 
stool fresh bread with ripe olives, a piece 
of sheep's-head cheese, and a jug of wine. 
And the poor clumsy fellow set to work 
nibbling at it, all the time grumbling, with 
a long face. 

" Such bread as she made," he observed 
with a quaver in his voice, "no one else 
could ever make. Just as if it were made 


of real meal. And with a handful of wild 
fennel, she would make a soup to lick your 
fingers over ! Now I shall have to buy 
bread at the shop of that thief, mastro 
Puddo ; and as for hot soup, I sha'n't have 
any more, when I come home wet as a 
fresh-hatched chicken. And I shall have 
to go to bed with a cold stomach. Only 
the other night, while I was watching with 
her, after I had been digging and grubbing 
all day on the hill, and caught myself snor- 
ing as I sat next the bed, so tired I was, 
the poor soul said to me : ' Go and get a 
mouthful of something to eat. I left the 
soup to keep hot on the hearth/ And she 
was always thinking about my comfort, 
and about the house, and whatever was to 
be done, and this thing and that thing ; and 
she could not come to an end of speaking 
or of giving her last directions, like one 
who is going off on a long journey, and I 
heard her constantly muttering between 
waking and sleeping. And how content- 
edly she went off to the other world ! With 


the crucifix on her breast, and her hands 
folded over it. She has no need of Masses 
and rosaries, saint that she was. Money 
spent on the priest would be money thrown 

" World of tribulation ! " exclaimed a 
neighbor. "Comare Angela's ass is like to 
die of the colic." 

" But my misfortunes are heavier," ended 
compare Meno, wiping his mouth with the 
back of his hand. " No, don't make me 
eat any more, for the mouthfuls fall like 
lumps of lead into my stomach. You eat 
something, you poor innocent, for you 
don't understand what you 've lost. Now 
you have no one any longer to wash you 
and brush your hair. Now you have n't a 
mamma any more to shelter you under her 
wings like a setting hen, and you are ruined, 
as I am. I found her for you, but a second 
stepmother like her you won't get, my 
daughter ! " 

The child with bursting heart put up her 
lip again, and stuck her fists into her eyes. 


" No, you can't possibly get along alone," 
interposed comare Sidora. " You must find 
another wife for the sake of this poor lit- 
tle motherless girl, left in the midst of the 

" And how shall I get along ? And my 
colt ? And my house ? And who '11 look 
after the hens? Let me weep, comare 
Sidora ! It would have been better if I 
had died instead of that good soul." 

" Hush, hush ! you don't know what you 
are saying, and you don't know what a 
house without its head is ! " 

"That is true," assented compare Meno, 

"Just take example from poor comare 
Angela ! First, her husband died ; then 
her grown-up son, and now her ass is also 

" The ass ought to be bled in the belly, 
if it has the colic," said compare Meno. 

" Come, you know all about such things," 
suggested the neighbor. " Do a work of 
charity for the sake of your wife's soul." 


Compare Meno got up to go to comare 
Angela's, and the little orphan ran behind 
him like a chicken, now that she had no 
one else in the world. Comare Sidora, 
good housewife that she was, called him 

" And the house ? How have you left 
it, now that there is no one there to look 
after it ? " 

" I locked the door, and besides cousin 
Alfia lives opposite, and will keep an eye 
on it." 

Neighbor Angela's ass lay stretched 
out in the midst of the yard, with his 
muzzle cold and his ears hanging, every 
now and then kicking his four legs into 
the air whenever the colic made him draw 
in his sides like a pair of bellows. The 
widow crouching in front of him on the 
rocks, with her hands clenching her gray 
hair, and her eyes dry and despairing, 
was watching him, pale as a corpse. 

Compare Meno manoeuvred round the 
animal, touching his ears, looking into his 


lifeless eyes, and when he saw that the 
blood was still oozing from the punctured 
vein under the belly, drop by drop, and 
coagulating in a black mass on his hairy 
skin, he remarked : 

" So you 've had him bled, have you ? " 

The widow fixed her dark eyes on his 
face without speaking, and nodded her 
" yes." 

" Then there's nothing more to do," said 
compare Meno, and he continued to stare 
at the ass, which stretched itself out on 
the stones, stiffly, with its hair all rumpled, 
like a dead cat. 

"It is God's will, sister!" said he to 
comfort her. "We are ruined, both of 

He had gone round by the widow's side 
and squatted down on the stones, with his 
little daughter between his knees, and both 
of them continued to gaze at the poor 
beast, which from time to time threshed 
the air with its legs as if it were in the 
agonies of death. 


Comare Sidora, when she had got the 
bread safely out of the oven, also came 
into the yard with the cousin Alfia, who 
had put on her new gown and wore her 
silk handkerchief on her head, all ready 
for a bit of gossip, and comare Sidora said 
to compare Meno, drawing him aside, 

" Curdtolo Nino won't give you his third 
daughter, for at your house the women die 
off like flies, and he loses the dowry. 
And then la Santa is too young, and 
there 's the risk that she 'd fill your house 
with children." 

"If only one could be sure of boys! 
But there 's always the danger of girls 
coming. Oh, I am so unfortunate ! " 

" Well, there 's the cousin Alfia. She is 
no longer young, and she has property, 
the house and a bit of vineyard."* 

Compare Meno fixed his eyes on the 
cousin Alfia, who with her arms a-kimbo 
was pretending to look at the ass, and then 
he said, " That 's so ! One might think of 
that. But I am so very unlucky ! " 


Comare Sidora interrupted him, 

" Think of those who are more unlucky 
than you are ! " 

"No one is, I tell you. I shall never 
find another wife like her, I shall never be 
able to forget her, even if I married ten 
times. And this poor little orphan will 
never forgot her, either." 

" Calm yourself ! You '11 forget her fast 
enough. And the little girl will forget her, 
too. Didn't she forget her own mother? 
But just look at poor neighbor Angela, 
whose ass is dying, and she has n't got 
anything else. She'll never be able to 
forget it." 

Comare Alfia saw that it was a favorable 
moment for her to approach, and drawing 
a long face, she began to eulogize the 
dead woman. She had with her own 
hands helped to lay her out on the bier, 
and had put over her face a fine linen 
handkerchief, of which she had -a goodly 
store, as may be imagined. 

Then compare Meno, with his heart 


melting within him, turned to his neighbor 
Angela, who was sitting motionless, as if 
she had been turned to stone. 

" I suppose you '11 have the ass skinned 
won't you ? At least get some money for 
his pelt." 




This book is due on the last date stamped below, or 

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'5-4 -3 



MAY 1 V 1961 

% 2'05-lPM 


4 1969 


', t 


LD 21**d!!!-l4/<6 1976 9 Q. General Librar